By Ed Runyan
The proposed 2 percent increase in the Mahoning County bed tax would provide the Western Reserve Port Authority with additional revenue so that it can continue its economic development and airport responsibilities, port authority member James Floyd said Wednesday.
Floyd answered reporters’ questions for 30 minutes after the port authority’s regular monthly meeting, clarifying the reasons why the port asked for additional bed tax money and how it would be used.
Floyd, an attorney, said the money the port authority has used since 2009, to pay for economic development work being done by director Rose Ann DeLeon, runs out in about 21 months. DeLeon now has an assistant, Sarah Lown, who was hired in November.
In 2011, payroll and benefits for DeLeon for 12 months and Lown for two months was $205,120. DeLeon’s base salary is $155,000 per year. She earned a $5,000 bonus in 2011. Lown’s base salary is $65,000.
The port authority also runs the Youngstown- Warren Regional Airport, which is a joint-use public and military facility with the U.S. Air Force’s Youngstown Air Reserve Station.
The Trumbull County commissioners approved an increase in the county’s bed tax a year ago to the maximum of 5 percent. The port authority asked the Mahoning County commissioners at about the same time to do the same.
Mahoning County commissioners, who meet today, are looking at other options to raise money for the port authority so no decision on increasing the bed tax will be made today, said Commissioner John McNally IV.
The port authority decided to ask for an increase in the bed tax because it would provide a more stable form of funding for economic development than the original funding, Floyd said.
The original funding, approved in 2008, was $375,000 per year for three years from Mahoning and Trumbull county commissioners and the cities of Youngstown, Warren and Niles, Howland Township and the Western Reserve Building Trades Council.
But that type of support, approved at the urging of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, is less stable than the bed tax, Floyd said, because government funding can fluctuate with the economy. The port authority has not asked the 2008 funding partners whether they would renew their previous funding, Floyd said.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the port authority approved a 2012 budget of $360,000 for its economic development office. Floyd said it’s not known how much money Mahoning County’s 2 percent bed tax increase would provide to the port authority.
The additional money would be used to continue economic development efforts, such as the project that helped relocate B.J. Alan Fireworks to former Delphi Packard Electric facilities in Trumbull County, Floyd said.
The additional revenue would also help the port maintain the airport, a responsibility that is growing in importance, Floyd said, because of concerns that the U.S. government might make further cuts at military bases.