Today is the deadline for placing issues on the November election ballot.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County commissioners voted today to place a 0.5 percent sales tax on the November ballot despite a renewed plea from the business community to impose it.
"I do not understand how there is any other way than to put this on the ballot and let it be decided by the people," said Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock.
One of the county's two half-penny taxes expires at the end of this year; the other expires in 2004. A five-year renewal on the first tax was defeated at the polls in May.
Commissioners announced immediately afterward that they'd try again in the Nov. 5 general election, and they had the required public hearings to put the measure back on the ballot.
Want tax imposed
But at a commission meeting last week, several business and labor leaders implored commissioners to bypass the election and impose the tax permanently. Commissioners took no action, saying they'd make a decision today.
Today also is the deadline for submitting resolutions to the county elections board for placement on the ballot.
Many of those same business leaders were back today and again asked commissioners to impose the tax.
Thomas Humphries, president of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber, said after the vote that the chamber has not decided whether it will back the commissioners in campaigning for the tax because chamber officials had been focusing on the permanent imposition.
He said the chamber will discuss the matter further.
Commissioners also voted to advertise public hearings for imposing the tax should they eventually decide go that route. Sherlock, however, and Commissioner David Ludt said they favor letting the voters decide.
The Democrats of the 17th District, a local political club, sent a letter to commissioners, also opposing imposition.
"The defeat of the sales tax in the primary with no organized opposition was a clear indication that the voters of the county still harbor a certain amount of mistrust of government and of some public officials," president Mark Belinky said in the letter.
Commissioner Ed Reese said he's concerned about the potential loss of tax revenue, which brings in about $12 million a year for operation of county government and discretionary projects such as economic development.
Still an option
Reese sided with his colleagues on putting the tax measure on the ballot, but said they should not count out imposing the tax if it is rejected at the polls.
"If we thought this decision was a tough one, what happens on Nov. 6 if the tax goes down and we're looking at malfeasance of office? That's when the tough question comes," he added.