County commissioner ranks similar budgets

The comparison is being made as commissioners mull whether to seek an increase in the county sales tax.
LISBON -- Columbiana County's general fund budget ranks low compared to some other Ohio counties of similar size, Commissioner Chairman Jim Hoppel says.
During Wednesday's commissioners meeting, Hoppel said he has analyzed numerous general fund budgets and ranked them according to how many people live in each county. The method provides a per-person spending figure as a basis for comparing county budgets, Hoppel said.
Columbiana County, with a nearly $12.8 million 2002 general fund budget and a population of 112,075, spends about $114 per person.
That figure is the lowest of 19 counties Hoppel studied.
The highest: Delaware County scored the highest at $322 per person. That's based on a general fund budget of $35.5 million and a population of 109,989.
In choosing which of Ohio's 88 counties to examine, Hoppel said he tried to pick those with populations similar to or smaller than Columbiana County's.
The 19 counties also include seven, besides Columbiana County, that the federal government has designated as Appalachia counties. The designation is applied to southern Ohio counties with lower than average economic conditions.
Hoppel said he conducted the study in connection with commissioners' consideration of putting a measure on the May 7 primary ballot calling for a 0.5 percent increase in the county's 1 percent sales tax.
Commissioners said they need more revenue to meet expenses.
Right now, the county's 1 percent sales tax produces about $6.5 million annually.
It's estimated that a 0.5 percent increase would bring in more than $3 million.
Using Hoppel's formula, that sales tax increase would raise the county's per person spending rating from $114 to $141.
Public hearings set: Two public hearings are set for next week in the commissioners' meeting room at the courthouse to get county residents' input on the proposed sales tax increase.
The first meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday. The second will be at 9 a.m. Friday.

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