The increase is necessary to help avoid an economic emergency, a commissioner said.
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- Columbiana County voters will be asked this spring to bring more revenue into the county treasury by approving a sales tax increase.
Commissioners voted Wednesday to put on the ballot a measure asking for a 0.5 percent sales tax increase for two years.
If passed, the sales tax would stand at 1.5 percent, the highest allowable.
"The need is there" for an increase, Commissioner Sean Logan said. "Our action today is to avoid a fiscal crisis."
Commissioners inserted language into the May 7 ballot resolution that specifies how revenue from the sales tax increase would be spent.
Breakdown: The measure requires that 54 percent 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 said county offices are trying to save money where they can, but expenses still are outdistancing revenues.
Anticipated 2002 revenues are about $12.7 million. But budget requests total about $16.7 million.
A 0.5 percent increase would bring in about $3 million annually.
Layoffs and cutbacks: Without the increase, layoffs and service reductions would be likely, commissioners have warned.
One reason the county is financially strapped is the commissioners' decision in September 2000 to strip 2 mills from the county general fund's already-small share of property taxes.
At the time the giveback was adopted, the county was operating without a sales tax and faced fiscal emergency.
Many county residents in 2000 were angry about recent increases in property taxes, so commissioners offered voters the property tax giveback to entice them to adopt the 1 percent sales tax in the November general election.
The 1 percent sales tax passed and produces about $6 million annually.
But that income is offset by a nearly $2 million annual loss that resulted from the property tax giveback.
Commissioners' decision to put the measure on the ballot follows a Dec. 27 decision to impose a 0.5 percent increase.
They rescinded the measure in January after tax-imposition opponents mounted a referendum that could have blocked tax collections.