Mahoning deputy tells commissioners: 'Focus on sales tax'

YOUNGSTOWN — The president of the union representing Mahoning County deputy sheriffs has told the county commissioners they must stay focused on renewing the half-percent county sales tax that will be on the ballot in May.

He added they should avoid any distractions, such as the debate about whether the county should switch to a charter form of government.

“The tax is absolutely necessary ...We live or die by that sales tax,” said Glenn Kountz, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 141. The tax is needed to keep the county jail conditions satisfactory and to avoid further releases of prisoners, he said at today's commissioners' meeting.

To control the inmate population, prisoners, other than those charged with violent felonies, may be released now under a mechanism devised by the county common pleas judges.

Kountz added that many deputies, including himself, have been laid off several times when one of the county’s two on-again, off-again sales taxes has failed at the ballot box. “Focus your efforts on the sales tax,” he urged the commissioners.

Each of the two sales taxes generates about $14 million annually for the county’s general fund, for a total of $28 million a year, which is more than 57 percent of the county’s general fund. For 2007, the general fund, the county’s main operating fund, totals $49.6 million. Judicial and law enforcement spending consume more than 69 percent of the general fund.

“Now is not the time to even cloud the issue. I mean, we need this sales tax to pass,” Kountz said. He said of charter government, “It’s irresponsible to even bring it up at this time.” The voters may defeat the tax with the idea “that maybe you should just change the way government’s run,” he warned.

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