MAHONING COUNTY After finding little opposition, board puts sales tax on ballot

Fewer than 25 people attended a public hearing Wednesday night in Greenford.
GREENFORD -- Mahoning County commissioners, without comment, placed today a 0.5 percent sales tax renewal on the May ballot at their weekly business meeting in Youngstown.
They were encouraged by the fact that opposition was once again light at a public hearing Wednesday evening, in Greenford. It was the second of two hearings commissioners are required by Ohio law to have before placing the measure before voters.
Most were supporters: Fewer than 25 people attended the hearing at the Green Township Government Building. As with the first hearing last week in the county courthouse, most who attended were county or township officials who support the tax.
Gary Brant of the self-appointed watchdog group Accountability Tax Force was the lone voice of dissent among the 10 people who addressed commissioners.
The ATF wants commissioners to hold off until November, when more people are likely to vote. Commissioners have said they want the renewal sooner than that so they can better make long-term financial plans.
Brant said he was surprised at the relatively low turnout.
"I thought this place would be jammed," he said, surveying rows of empty chairs before the hearing started.
He doesn't interpret the no-shows to mean that most people support the tax, though, and vowed to continue working against a May vote.
Likewise, commissioners refused to say that a renewal is assured and said they will work hard to persuade voters that they've acted responsibly with tax revenue over the years.
Group forming: Maria Pappas of Poland said a group is forming to help commissioners promote passage of the tax. The group will be called Citizens to Continue the Progress.
Pappas chaired a similar committee that promoted passage of a sales tax in 2000. The county has two separate 0.5 percent taxes, each of which brings in about $12 million a year.
When they expire: The one at issue expires at the end of this year; the other expires in December 2004.
Green Township Trustee Ed Schaefer Sr. was among those who endorsed the tax.
"I hate taxes about as much as anybody else, but I've seen how it's come back to help our communities," he said.
The township building was constructed with community development grant money commissioners set aside from the other sales tax. Ten percent of that tax's revenue is earmarked for distribution among the townships and municipalities for development projects.

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