With the national economy struggling to get traction after a recession that began in late 2008, and a private sector job market that’s anemic, at best, the word taxes carries an even greater negative connotation today than in the past. Taxpayers expect public sector employees to make the same kind of sacrifices they have made over the last several years. Thus, the growing aversion to approving any new taxes — and even some reluctance to renew those that are in effect.
While we have embraced Gov. John Kasich’s call for governments at all levels to do more with less, we also recognize that a blanket rejection of all tax issues would undermine important services needed by society’s most vulnerable.
Thus, The Vindicator appeals to the goodwill of area residents with regard to several tax renewal issues on the Nov. 6 ballot. In Mahoning County: 0.25 percent sales tax for five years for the Western Reserve Transit Authority; 0.5-mill levy for Children Services Board; and, 0.1-mill for tuberculosis prevention and control programs. In Trumbull County, a 1.5-mill, 10-year levy for the Fairhaven Mental Retardation program.
It is worth repeating: These are not new taxes. They have been on the books for some time and taxpayers have gotten used to paying them. We believe the agencies that receive the money have been good stewards of the public dollars, More importantly, area residents who are benefitting from the programs would be hard-pressed to fend for themselves if the services were cut or reduced. Providing a minimum-wage worker with a cheap mode of transportation, as the WRTA does, isn’t a handout; investigating child abuse and neglect complaints, as the CSB does, isn’t government overreach; testing for and treatment of tuberculosis, at a meager cost to the public, isn’t bureaucratic make-work; and, providing services to more than 1,000 children and adults with mental retardation and developmental disabilities, as the Fairhaven program does, certainly can’t be criticized by even the most ardent anti-tax resident.
Here’s a synopsis of the four renewal issues:
Western Reserve Transit Authority
Although the 0.25-percent sales tax does not expire until the end of 2013, transit officials are being “safe” in putting the issue on next month’s ballot.
Approval now would give the executive director, Jim Ferraro, the board of directors and the staff a year to prepare for operational changes that would make the system more efficient.
The money generated by the county-wide tax covers 70 percent of the transit authority’s funding. The rest comes from fare-box revenues and federal grants.
In 2011, the WRTA received $7.5 million from the sales tax. Voters approved it in 2008.
Since then, bus service has been extended to all corners of the county, while the EasyGO door-to-door service is growing in popularity.
The bottom line is that the WRTA has kept the promises it made initially, and there is nothing to suggest that it would not continue to do so if the tax were renewed.
Children Services Board
The $1.3 million generated by the 0.5-mill levy is used for general operating expenses. It was first approved in 1982.
In addition to investigating child abuse and neglect complaints, the agency offers parent education, foster family care, emergency shelter, group home residences and adoption services.
The 0.1-mill levy, which was first approved by the voters in 1976, funds a clinic on Glenwood Avenue.
While the number of cases locally and nationally has gone down through the years, the prevention and control programs are key in keeping the lid on this potential public health problem.
The levy generates $176,540 a year.
The 50-year existence of the program is a testament to the caring and sensitivity of the residents of Trumbull County. The children and adults who utilize the various services did not choose their disabilities. Yet, they live their lives the best they can.
The 1.5-mill levy is a small price to pay for a program that is designed to help those who cannot fully help themselves.
We have no doubt that most voters will not hesitate to renew the levy; it is the right thing to do. A rejection would cause undue hardship to those who need all the help they can get because it would force spending cuts.
Among the programs are school services for individuals aged 6 to 21 that are based on individualized education plans developed in partnership with the staff and parents. For infants and toddlers, there is early intervention to promote growth and development.
And there’s help for families.
The Vindicator strongly supports the renewal of the community-based levies.