COLUMBIANA CO. Many praise tax move

Officeholders say additional revenue is desperately needed.
LISBON -- Although some Columbiana County residents object to commissioners' recent decision to impose a 0.5-percent sales tax increase, most county officials spoken to praised the action.
"It was absolutely necessary. Period," county Prosecutor Robert Herron said of commissioners' decision, rendered more than a week ago.
Herron said his office desperately needs the infusion of cash that will result from the imposed tax, which will produce about $3 million annually in revenue.
"We're down to having just enough attorneys to cover each court," Herron said. But his bare-bones staff isn't large enough to cover for vacations and illnesses. "It's a major problem," he added.
"I think it was a good idea," said Frank Copacia, director of the county's adult probation department. "The county needs to increase its revenue."
He added he is short-handed in his department because one person has been laid off and he hasn't replaced a secretary who retired.
"I think I've done my share to keep costs down," Copacia said.
Mixed emotions
Treasurer Linda Bolon said she has mixed emotions about commissioners' decision to impose the tax.
"I can appreciate the public's right to vote on tax issues. But I also fully understand the financial situation we're in," Bolon said.
Commissioners have a duty to ensure that the county is adequately funded, and they exercised that duty by imposing the sales tax, she added.
"Efforts to cut back have been so drastic it forces officeholders to be unable to do their job efficiently," Bolon said.
For nearly two months, her staff worked a three-day week to save money. The treasurer's staff recently returned to a five-day work week, however, after Bolon concluded that service to the public was suffering.
Recorder Gary Williams, who also is the Republican candidate for county commissioner, disagreed with imposing the sales tax because opposition to the measure probably will result in the action being scrapped.
"Certainly we need more revenue," Williams said. But, he added, "people have the right to vote" on tax issues.
Looking ahead
Williams noted that the imposed tax is subject to a referendum effort by county residents.
A referendum would place a measure on the November ballot asking voters if they wish to reject the imposed tax. It also would block collections of the tax, even before the November election.
A group of citizens opposed to imposed taxes already has said it will undertake a referendum effort.
"They're just spinning their wheels," Williams said of commissioners' decision to impose the tax. "It will probably never be collected."

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