More than half the revenue from a proposed tax increase should go toward paying to house prisoners in the county jail, a commissioner says.
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- Columbiana County Commissioner Chairman Jim Hoppel says he has a tentative green light from the Ohio Secretary of State's office to specify on the ballot how a proposed sales tax increase would be spent.
Commissioners are mulling putting a measure on the May 7 primary election ballot that would increase the county's 1 percent sales tax by 0.5 percent.
A sales tax increase must be considered as a means of providing general fund revenue to meet county government expenses, commissioners say.
Hearings on the proposal are set for 7 p.m. Feb. 11 and 9 a.m. Feb. 15 in the commissioners' meeting room at the courthouse.
Specifically, the hearings will discuss whether to seek the 0.5 percent increase and to decide how long the increase, if approved, would be in effect.
Percentages: If commissioners decide to put the measure before voters, Hoppel wants to put percentages on the ballot specifying how the estimated $3 million annual revenue from the increase would be spent.
Providing voters with that information would let them see in black and white where the money would go.
"It would give people more information and help them decide how they're going to vote on it," Hoppel said.
If Hoppel has his way, the ballot would specify that 54 percent of the revenue go toward paying for housing prisoners at the county jail, 23 percent toward paying off a loan to build the county jail several years ago and the remaining 23 percent toward the county's share of operating a multicounty juvenile justice system.
Hoppel said sales tax increase money should be earmarked for those expenses because they are crucial ones.
Checked with state: When Hoppel first proposed inclusion of the percentages on the ballot, Elections Board Director John Payne questioned whether state law would allow it.
Hoppel asked Payne to check with the Ohio secretary of state's office on the matter.
The state replied that preliminary research indicates there isn't any regulation preventing it, and that the county could go ahead and include the percentages, Hoppel said.
Before a measure containing the figures would actually go on the ballot, the secretary of state's office would make a final determination on the matter, Hoppel explained.