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COLUMBIANA CO. Personal tactic helps push tax



Published: Fri, May 3, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Commissioners have spent time talking directly to voters.

By NORMAN LEIGH

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

LISBON -- Potential voters in Columbiana County haven't been seeing newspaper ads, campaign signs or other trappings that have accompanied past efforts to get county sales taxes passed.

Instead, county commissioners and other supporters of the 0.5-percent increase in the county tax proposed on Tuesday's ballot are taking a low-key, personal approach to the campaign.

That's largely because of a lack of money, county Commissioner Dave Cranmer said Thursday.

Although a committee exists to promote the increase's passage, it has little to spend on the effort, said Cranmer, who isn't sure how much is in the group's treasury.

What's being done

Rather than expending funds for ads and campaign signs, the committee is banking on promotional fliers being mailed out and on county commissioners' persuasive skills.

Commissioners Cranmer, Jim Hoppel and Sean Logan have spent the last several weeks stumping for the increase at gatherings of church, social and civic organizations.

The personal approach seems helpful, Cranmer said, noting that even some skeptics are won over when they hear directly from commissioners the steps that have been taken to save money and learn more about the cost of running county government.

"They're amazed that the county isn't the bad guy ... when you actually lay it out," Cranmer said.

During his talks, Cranmer said he notes that very little of the property taxes is used to run county government, which relies primarily on sales tax revenue.

He provides specific examples to groups by providing tax breakdowns for area homes

At a recent talk to Guilford Lake area residents he showed them a breakdown for a $151,300 home. The owners pay $1,656 annually in property taxes. But only $9.27 of that goes to county government.

The rest is distributed among schools, mental health services and township road and fire departments.

Cranmer said he believes many residents to whom commissioners speak become generally supportive of the tax if they weren't already.

"I think the realization is there," he said. "It's one vote at a time. It's one person at a time," he said of the campaign.

But Cranmer noted there are hundreds of voters who haven't received a first-hand pitch for the measure.

"We get the story out in the press as best as we can," Cranmer said of numerous news media accounts of the county's financial difficulties.

But it's tough to know whether people are reading those stories and are convinced by them.

Tax skeptics have repeatedly told commissioners that they believe county government must make do with what it has, just as taxpayers do in their personal lives.




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