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Voters should think of needy in deciding on levy renewals



Published: Thu, October 25, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

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.

TB 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.

Fairhaven

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.


Comments

1gdog4766(1467 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

WRTA, TB No, Childrens Services, Fairhaven, Yes

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2peggygurney(392 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

I vote YES to all of the renewals.

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3Ianacek(900 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

Wait up ! Property owners & consumers are needy too ! Before anyone decides to renew any levies , let's look objectively at how much they achieve versus other possible programs .

Temporary programs too often are made permanent by default. There is never enough money to meet all needs . Public officials should collect robust data & prioritise .

The mantra of "don't ever cut or reduce a program's funding, someone might get hurt" is ridiculous . We all reassess priorities in our household budgets to meet developing areas of greater need , so why should local authorities do likewise ?

I would recommend voting no for all , just for having the cheek to ask for a renewal without giving a full account of how orevious taxpayer money has been spent Usually, the first term of a program includes heavy establishment costs . Thereafter , costs should reduce .

The WRTA claim that it needs the levy to be more efficient is puzzling . If they cut waste now , they could reduce or eliminate the levy - & there IS waste . The TB levy is mainly for international outreach . That levy has outlived its usefulness since 1976.

Likewise , we should seriously examine something in this day & age still calling itself Fairhaven "Mental Retardation" , a now derogatory description of those with intellectual & developmental disabilities . Is the way in which the service is delivered also out of date ?

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4walter_sobchak(1892 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

I was exiting the Wal-Mart in Liberty a couple of months ago and a WRTA bus pulled up. A young man who was sitting on a bench in the entryway jumped up with his packages, quickly grabbed his forearm cruthces and he scurried to catch the bus, moving as fast as anyone! AT that point I told myself I would continue to support this levy. This is a service that many types of citizens can utilize and disabled people can have a level of freedom and independence. C'mon man, it is 25 cents on $100 of taxable goods that everyone pays, including the disabled that use the bus. A tax like this that is so close to home that you can see the benefits of is OK with me.

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5city_resident(510 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

"If they [WRTA] cut waste now , they could reduce or eliminate the levy - & there IS waste ."

The levy covers 70% of their operating expenses. While I'm sure there is room for improvement, they aren't that wasteful! And, according to past Vindy articles, they can't ask for a smaller sales tax.

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