MAHONING COUNTY Speakers split on added sales tax

Some 100 people attended a lively debate about a half-penny sales tax.
POLAND -- Speakers were divided on support for renewal of the half-percent Mahoning County sales tax, but there was a strong consensus against county commissioners' imposing the tax.
Monday's public hearing at Poland Township Hall before an audience of about 100 people was the first of four hearings scheduled by commissioners on possible imposition of the tax. Commissioners have placed the issue, which failed in the May primary, on the November ballot.
"You cannot allow the day after election to come and Mahoning County to be without the tax," Ralph Zerbonia of Poland, a member of the board of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, told commissioners.
The chamber and some labor leaders have supported imposition of the tax. "You do, in fact, have a responsibility to financially support your government," Zerbonia said.
Gary Kubic, county administrator, tried to put the tax in perspective, saying it amounts to $5 on a $1,000 purchase.
"I wonder why we're even here since we just had a vote by the public, which is one of the best public hearings you could have, in May. Either we're wasting our time tonight talking about this, or the voters are wasting their time when they go to the polls in November," said Tom Zamary of Poland, who opposes the tax.
"The Mahoning County commissioners should have accepted the will of the people in May. We've seen a spending spree that's been going on for a long time now, and it's placed Mahoning County in financial jeopardy," said Debbie Taylor of Boardman, chairwoman of the Accountability Tax Force, a self-proclaimed government watchdog group.
"I am not against the tax, per se. I'm against the tax imposed on me. I will vote my conscience in the ballot box, but I do not want you telling me what my conscience is," said Dorothy Balluck of New Springfield.
"I am retired, and I speak for a lot of other retired people that are on fixed incomes, and every time the taxes go up, our income goes down," she said, adding that stocks and other investments to maintain one's retirement income are performing poorly. "If it is imposed, I will actively work to have it repealed," she said.
How tax has been used
Austintown Township Trustee David Ditzler praised the sales tax for providing a community development fund. "It's given money back to local communities. In Austintown alone, we built a new 911 dispatch center with the additional community development funds. We've also seen a park educational program being put into Austintown. We've also had numerous roads repaved that we would never have had paved without the half percent sales tax," Ditzler said.
The next public hearing on the sales tax will be at 7 p.m. Friday in the Campbell municipal building.

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