Sales tax opponent adopts new tack
The new, third petition will be ready for signatures by Tuesday.
WARREN -- Thaddeus Price says his sales tax lawsuit against Trumbull County commissioners will be dropped now that they've specified how the money would be used for criminal justice services.
Instead, Price is planning a more aggressive volunteer effort to circulate three distinct petitions involving 21,000 signatures to force two new county sales taxes onto the November general election ballot.
Price said he's instructed his attorney, Michael Rossi of Warren, to drop his suit that sought to block collection of the emergency tax for criminal justice services.
Collections on both quarter-percent taxes are scheduled to begin in July. Commissioners imposed one tax as an emergency measure for criminal justice services; the second is a nonemergency measure for general fund operations, such as the auditor, treasurer and recorder.
Army of volunteers
Price's small army of volunteers will likely start showing up on public sidewalks to seek signatures, which have been gathered for a week now at the Howland Township gazebo and some local businesses.
The petition drive to this point has been "passive-aggressive," Price said. Things will ramp up now that there's new pressure to gather several thousand additional names on the third petition, he said.
It might be doable because people still are angry about the sales taxes, he noted -- perhaps even more so since commissioners changed one of the tax resolutions Wednesday and created more work for those petitioning for a public vote.
"It's really thrown a monkey wrench into my game," Price said Thursday. "We're still going to give it a valid attempt."
The commissioners voted 3-0 to amend their resolution for a criminal justice services sales tax, specifically saying how the money would be used -- mostly for the sheriff and jail, but also for the courts and coroner.
This amendment was in response to Price's suit filed in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court, which claimed the tax would be illegal because commissioners hadn't spelled out uses for the dollars.
Price said he and Rossi believe the amended tax resolution is "still suspect" because there was no written notice of the new language advertised publicly beforehand, and because there were no public hearings beforehand.
Still, the commissioners' adding a few paragraphs of new language has created a separate resolution that will require a separate petition -- and a whole lot more signatures, Price explained.
There now will be three petition drives: against the original resolution, the amended resolution, and the resolution for the nonemergency tax. That's just in case either of the criminal justice resolutions is found to be void.
The new petition will be ready for signatures by Tuesday.
Volunteers have until May 6 to get the tax for general county use before the voters as a referendum. The nonemergency measure won't take effect July 1 if opponents can meet that deadline with the county auditor's office.
They have until Aug. 25 to get the emergency tax on the November ballot. It would be a repeal effort; those tax collections will still begin July 1. The signatures would be filed with the county board of elections.
Price said he and Rossi believe a new 45-day time frame for the petitioners began anew, as of Wednesday, for the criminal justice services tax.