Officials: Pride is an issue
Officials hope voters will take pride in the county government.
By D.A. WILKINSON
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- Columbiana County officials are trying a new approach to help pass a half-percent sales tax in May.
The commissioners said Wednesday they hope their conservative spending will promote pride in the county government and the community.
"We can collectively be very proud of our county government and ask voters to share in that pride," said Sean Logan, chairman of the commissioners.
Logan said that pride is ultimately a quality-of-life issue, adding, "We're all in this together."
Commissioner Jim Hoppel said county government has to pull itself up by its bootstraps, adding, "No one else is going to do that for us."
Voters renewed a 1 percent sales tax in 2005, but they rejected renewal of the half-percent tax. The two taxes had made up 66 percent of the county's general fund budget.
Even if voters approve the tax, the county won't see any revenue until 2007. By then, the county may have a $1.5 million debt from this year.
In the past, the on-again, off-again sales taxes resulted in layoffs, lawsuits and bickering among officials. But in recent years, officials have worked together as they streamlined and modernized county operations.
"We're doing the best we can, and I think we're progressing," Logan said.
Revenue and spending
To spread that message, the commissioners have added a financial review to their weekly agenda. Last week, county Auditor Nancy Milliken posted pie charts of monthly revenue and spending on her Web site.
Giving easy public access to revenue and spending figures, Logan said, "keeps officeholders on their toes."
Milliken and the commissioners began to conserve money in late 2004, fearing failure of one of the taxes. The county ended 2005 with a $1.8 million balance that will help to ease the loss of the 0.5 percent sales tax.
But Milliken said she had heard many comments from the public that the county doesn't need the extra tax because of the carry-over.
The county, she said, should have an annual balance of about $2 million. She isn't sure what the balance will be at the end of this year.
Cooperation between officeholders is "100 percent," Milliken added. But that wasn't always the case. "I was here when the cooperation wasn't here," she said.
The commissioners also have scheduled a series of town hall meetings sponsored by the county's various chambers of commerce. Logan said officials will answer questions about the county's finances at those meetings.