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COLUMBIANA CO. Officials to vote on ballot measure



Published: Sat, February 16, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Service reductions and layoffs are in store if more revenue can't be produced, a commissioner says.

By NORMAN LEIGH

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

LISBON -- Columbiana County commissioners say they will vote next week to put a measure on the May 7 primary ballot to increase the county's sales tax to 1.5 percent.

Commissioners announced their intention Friday after a public hearing to gather input on the proposed 0.5 percent increase, which, if passed, would be in effect for two years.

Money from the increase wouldn't begin reaching the county until about October.

Commissioners say the county must have the nearly $3 million annually the increase would bring in to effectively run county government.

Without the tax increase, the county has about $12.7 million available to spend this year.

But bills and funding requests from county offices total nearly $16.7 million.

Friday's hearing was the second of two required by law before an issue can be put on the ballot.

For and against: Former county commissioner Bert Dailey of Middleton Township, who served in the 1980s, told commissioners he supports the increase, citing the need for it.

But others at the meeting spoke against it, telling commissioners they must make do with the revenue they have.

Commissioners argued that county government has taken steps to do so, including continuing a contract with a private company to run the county jail at a nearly $700,000 yearly savings and allowing nearly a dozen employee vacancies created through attrition to go unfilled.

"We've tried to respond the best way we can to hold the cost," Commissioner David Cranmer said.

Without more funding coming into the county, "there's going to be services that aren't performed. There's going to be layoffs," Commissioner Chairman Jim Hoppel said.

Spending breakdown: The ballot measure for the sales tax increase will spell out where the revenue would be spent, Hoppel said.

Ballot language will state that 54 percent of the revenue will go toward paying to house 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.

Commissioners' decision to put the sales tax increase on the ballot follows their Dec. 27 decision to impose it.

That move sparked a referendum effort by some county residents that would have blocked collections on the imposed tax, which would have started in March.

Commissioners voted Jan. 18 to rescind the imposed tax.




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