MAHONING COUNTY Officials consider sales-tax options

Commissioners have until Aug. 19 to place an issue on the ballot.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Two Mahoning County commissioners say Mahoning County needs a permanent sales tax, but the third commissioner has yet to decide.
Commissioners have less than two weeks to make up their minds.
The panel intends to ask voters in November to renew a 0.5 percent county sales tax that expires Dec. 31. Commissioners are mulling options of renewal for five or 10 years or for a continuing period. They also are considering a 1 percent tax instead of the 0.5 percent measure.
If they go for the 1 percent option and it passes, a second, separate 0.5 percent tax that expires in 2007 would be repealed.
Commissioners have until 4 p.m. Aug. 19 to decide on one of the options, pass a resolution and get it to the county board of elections for placement on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.
The best option
Commissioners Ed Reese and David Ludt said they believe renewal of the 0.5 percent tax for a continuing period is the best option.
They said a 0.5 percent renewal would be easier to sell voters than a one-percent, even though 1 percent is what the county already has in place with the two combined half-percent taxes.
"We need the full 1 percent, but I don't know if that's winnable," Reese said. "We have to go with what we think we can pass."
Ludt said he also thinks the county needs a permanent 1 percent tax, but that he hasn't been able to drum up much support from the business community for that option.
Good for business
Greg Sherlock of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber said the business group has long supported a continuing tax because of the stability it would lend to the local economy to have a steady source of revenue for government services.
"It allows much better job creation and retention," Sherlock said. "It just makes good business sense."
Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock said she's still mulling all the options and isn't ready to commit to one.
"At this point it would be a little premature, at least for me," she said. "It's a very difficult time to pass any kind of tax."
Commissioners still are waiting for results of a five-year fiscal forecast by the state auditor's office, which Sherlock said should be in-hand by mid-August. She wants to see the report before deciding on a sales tax option.
Reese said whichever option is chosen, commissioners need to support it unanimously if they expect voters to follow their lead.

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