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COLUMBIANA TAX Group faces July 29 deadline



Published: Fri, July 19, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



More than 3,000 valid signatures must be gathered.

By NORMAN LEIGH

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

LISBON -- An effort to thwart a sales tax increase imposed by Columbiana County commissioners is under way, and is expected to meet a looming deadline, an organizer says.

Volunteers from a grass-roots group that's challenging the 0.5-percent increase imposed last month by county commissioners are busy trying to gather the more than 3,000 signatures necessary to bar collections on the tax, Alex Snyder of Columbiana said Thursday.

Snyder is a spokesman for Voters Organized for Tax Elections.

The group has until July 29 to file a valid petition if it wants to stop collections on the imposed tax, set to start Sept. 1. The referendum also would place a measure on the November ballot asking voters if they want to remove the imposed tax.

"I have confidence that we will do it," Snyder said of succeeding in getting a referendum filed to block collections.

He said he's uncertain how many signatures of registered Columbiana County voters already have been obtained.

Volunteers have been circulating petitions in Columbiana, Salem, Lisbon, East Liverpool, Knox Township and the Minerva area.

Signatures have been sought in neighborhoods and at public gatherings, such as youth baseball games.

The group plans to step up its effort in coming days to meet the July 29 deadline.

Goal is 5,000

Although about 3,200 signatures are all that's needed, the group wants to get at least 5,000 in case a required review of the signatures by the county elections board determines some of the signatures are invalid.

Snyder has said his group isn't opposed to the sales tax increase itself. It objects to commissioners' imposing the tax. The group thinks taxes should be determined at the ballot box.

When imposing the tax, commissioners Dave Cranmer and Sean Logan said the county's financial need is too critical to wait for voters to approve a higher sales tax.

The 0.5-percent increase would bring in about $3 million annually.

Commissioner President Jim Hoppel voted against imposing the sales tax increase, although Hoppel has acknowledged the need for one. He has said he thinks taxes should be voted on by the electorate.

The county's financial picture is gloomy because governmental expenses continue to outpace revenue, despite county officials' having enacted belt-tightening measures that have included service cutbacks, layoffs and reductions in hours worked by county employees. Some bills are not being paid in full.

Commissioners have predicted the county could be $1 million to $1.6 million in the red by year's end if the sales tax increase fails to stand.




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