Voters react to tax plan

Voters are not sure if they will vote to approve the additional sales tax.
& lt;a & gt;By STEPHEN SIFF & lt;/a & gt;and PEGGY SINKOVICH
WARREN -- After preparing the public with hearings and scaring them with proposed budget cuts, Trumbull County commissioners came to their sales tax decision: Pay more. Vote later. And study, study, study.
"We thought that was the fairest way," said Commissioner James G. Tsagaris.
Commissioners got it both ways -- an emergency, imposed 0.5 percent sales tax that starts collecting revenue quickly, and will continue for a year; and a vote in November on whether to make the increase permanent, something that residents had called for in public meetings.
Their own minds made up, commissioners will appoint a bipartisan commission to study the county spending and produce a recommendation to voters.
Voters, at least right now, are skeptical.
"It's like they are shoving it down our throats and then giving us a teaspoon of sugar by saying we can vote on it in November," said Bill Schumacher of Hartford. "There is no way I will approve it. I pay enough in taxes."
The tax increase will raise about $8 million a year for the county. With it, local consumers will pay 6 percent tax at the cash register, with 1 percent for the county.
Opposed to tax
"We don't need any additional taxes," said Yolanda Lazor, 76, a Champion widow living on a fixed income. "Everyone gets a raise but us senior citizens. We never get a raise."
Patricia and John Pero and their son, Paul, of Hubbard, agreed.
"It's going to hurt some people, and those that live close to another community like Sharon may just decide to move," said John Pero. "We know lots of people that go to Pennsylvania now to buy clothes because they aren't taxed. The times are tough, people don't want to pay more."
Mrs. Pero said she understands the county needs the money but believes elected officials need to show that they will spend the extra dollars wisely. News stories about maintenance department spending have made her wonder if commissioners are watching the store.
A county grand jury has been hearing evidence about county purchasing practices since late last year. An investigation by the county prosecutor, prompted by a series of Vindicator articles, found excessive spending on cleaning supplies and a bookkeeping system that did not ensure that items paid for ever arrived.
Mrs. Pero said she doesn't think a citizens committee the commissioners are forming to watch how the county spends the money will do any good.
"They should be able to police themselves," Mrs. Pero said.
A few county residents say they are in favor of the tax.
Tim Porter, a salesman from McDonald, said the cutbacks commissioners proposed Monday, before announcing they would seek the extra sales tax money, convinced him.
"I believe the county needs the money," he said.
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