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Columbiana sales tax failure will force cuts



Published: Wed, May 8, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Voters also defeated two school levies in the county.

By NORMAN LEIGH

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

LISBON -- Columbiana County officials are forecasting gloomy fiscal times for the county with the failure of a proposed 0.5-percent sales tax increase.

Commissioners Jim Hoppel and Sean Logan said a bare-bones budget adopted earlier this year to meet a nearly $2 million funding shortfall will begin taking its toll in coming weeks.

County department heads will run out of money to pay salaries and are expected to begin laying off employees and reducing services.

"When people see how much we have to cut, I don't think they'll like it," Hoppel said Tuesday night after the tax failed.

Nearly 55 percent of voters were opposed to the measure, which lost by 1,682 votes.

Disappointed

"We just don't have the confidence of the people," Hoppel said. "They still don't see the need for it. I'm awful disappointed. I was thinking it was going to pass."

Commissioners sought the tax because expenditures have been outpacing revenues.

The increase would have boosted the county sales tax to 1.5 percent.

It also would have produced about $3 million annually in revenue, though not this year because collections wouldn't begin until later in 2002.

"Massive, massive cuts will go into effect," Logan said of the result of Tuesday's sales tax defeat.

Logan predicted the state may place the county under fiscal emergency by October.

If that occurs, a board will be appointed to oversee county finances.

Logan and Hoppel said they were uncertain whether commissioners should put the 0.5-percent increase proposal on the November ballot.

Commissioner Dave Cranmer was unavailable.

School levies

In other election matters, two permanent improvement levies for school districts were scrapped by voters.

Voters rejected the Columbiana school district's proposal for a 1.6-mill, five-year permanent improvement replacement levy.

The issue was defeated by 69 votes in Columbiana County. Mahoning County voters in the school district soundly rejected the measure, voting nearly 2-to-1 against it.

"We'll be back on the ballot in November," said Superintendent Patricia Hura. "The money is very much needed."

The measure would have raised about $210,000 annually to improve facilities, and to purchase buses and textbooks.

Beaver school district's permanent improvement levy also was turned down.

Nearly 65 percent of voters cast ballots against the additional 1.5-mill, five-year measure, which would have generated about $287,375 annually.

"We probably didn't communicate the need" for the levy, Superintendent Willard Adkins said following the defeat.

The measure may be put on the fall ballot, he added.




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