The tax received strong endorsements from local labor leaders.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County officials say they are ready for the challenge of selling a 0.5 percent sales tax for passage by voters in the May 7 primary election.
Their optimism was not dampened by the threat of a referendum should the tax be approved.
"That threat does not surprise me," said Commissioner Ed Reese. "They're being regressive if they do that. But if they put down their ideas on paper, we will go toe to toe with them."
Commissioners held the first of two public hearings this morning required before placing the tax issue on the ballot. The tax expires at the end of the year.
Commissioner David Ludt reminded people that the tax is a renewal, not a new levy.
Most of the 25 people who attended were county officials or employees.
Endorsements: The tax received strong endorsements from local labor leaders, including Larry Fauver, president of the Greater Youngstown AFL-CIO, who said the labor community will support the tax.
"We will do everything we can to keep this tax in place so we don't go backward," Fauver said.
Opposition: Gary Brant of the Accountability Tax Force said his group is opposed to the tax being on the ballot in May. The group thinks the tax question should be on the November ballot because that is a general election, which would bring out more voters and a greater cross-section of county residents.
"If this tax is passed in the May primary we will circulate petitions for a referendum to have it on the ballot in November," he said.
Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock said she does not believe such a move is legal, but commissioners are checking into it.
Challenge: Auditor George Tablack issued a challenge to tax opponents. He asked that they submit their ideas for budget appropriations to major general fund departments. County officials would respond by evaluating the ideas and reporting the impact of those appropriations, Tablack said.
"If we're going to have a debate, let's make it intelligent and meaningful," he said.
Tablack said he has never been more optimistic about the progress of county government and that a recent performance audit of the county by the Ohio Auditor's Office validates the need for the tax revenue.
Lee Kohler, representing the county trustees association, endorsed the tax and said township officials are pleased with the way commissioners have spent the money.