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Sales tax hearing held despite weather

Published: Tue, January 7, 2014 @ 12:07 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken



About 50 people, most of them department heads or employees of Mahoning County, braved plummeting temperatures and a brutal wind-chill to attend a Monday evening hearing at the Covelli Centre on the county commissioners’ proposal to renew an existing sales tax and to add a new one.

On the May 6 ballot, the commissioners propose to renew a 0.50-percent sales tax continuously and to enact a new 0.25-percent sales tax for five years beginning Oct. 1, 2014.

County officials found themselves preaching to the choir at the advertised hearing, which Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said could not be postponed if the commissioners still wanted to meet various ballot deadlines for the May election.

Barbara Brothers of Youngstown was the only person to speak for the tax proposal during the public-comment period.

“If we want to have services in our community, the state has left us no option but to increase the taxes that we pay at the local level,” because of cuts in state funding to local governments, Brothers said in her brief remarks.

Nobody spoke against the commissioners’ tax proposal.

The county has a separate 0.50-percent sales tax that is already continuous, meaning that it has no stated expiration date.

The Western Reserve Transit Authority has its own 0.25-percent, five-year county sales tax.

During a lengthy power-point presentation on the county budget, Audrey C. Tillis, county budget director, said renewal of the 0.50-percent tax that will be on the ballot this year is critical.

“There’s no way that this general fund can survive losing $15 million,” she said, explaining why the 0.50-percent tax, which raises $15.5 million annually, is being presented this year as a continuous renewal. “If you cut $15 million out of this county’s budget, you really would shut down government,” she added.

Tillis said the new 0.25-percent sales tax is necessary to compensate for losses in revenue in recent years from the state, from the county’s investments and from three years of lack of income from the housing of federal prisoners in the county jail.

The commissioners say their revenue losses have totaled $10.5 million since 2008, including $3.2 million in lost investment income, $2.9 million in lost state funding and a $4.4 million loss in federal prisoner revenue.

Federal prisoners returned to the county jail last fall for the first time since 2010.

The new 0.25-percent sales tax would add $7.75 million annually to the county’s coffers.

The commissioners have adopted a $50.2 million general fund budget for 2014.

The general fund, which is the county’s main operating fund, pays for the operation of the sheriff’s office, which runs the jail, the prosecutor’s office, the courts and the central administration of county government.

Except for $1.4 million that went into the debt-service fund last year and $1,050,000 that will go there this year, all sales-tax revenue goes into the general fund.

Anthony D’Apolito, county juvenile court administrator, said the taxpayers’ investment in the juvenile justice system, which will consume nearly $5.6 million from the general fund this year, is money well-spent because it likely limits additional future expenses for the adult jail and prison system.

“If you put the money into it at this level, then you’re probably going to save it later,” he said of the juvenile justice system.

Currently, Mahoning County is among 15 Ohio counties with a total sales tax rate of 7 percent.

Forty-nine of Ohio’s 88 counties, including Columbiana, have total sales taxes of 7.25 percent.

Cuyahoga County has the highest rate at 8 percent, and that includes a full 1 percent for mass transit.

Nineteen Ohio counties, including Trumbull, have 6.75 percent; and four, including Stark, charge only 6.5 percent.

County and mass transit sales taxes are in addition to the 5.75 percent sales tax the state collects. The state raised its rate from 5.5 to 5.75 percent on Sept. 1, 2013.

Another public hearing on the commissioners’ sales tax proposal will be at 10:30 a.m. next Monday in the commissioners’ Mahoning County Courthouse basement meeting room.


1CompManRetired(29 comments)posted 8 months, 2 weeks ago

For those who wish to avoid higher sales tax shop elsewhere. No tax on clothing in Pa, shop in Trumbull (Eastwood) or purchase from Amazon with no tax. A merchant in Boardman once told me higher taxes would be paid mostly by those outside of Boardman or the county. This on top of the state eliminating the 12.5% property tax rollback for new tax levies. It is time for public identifies like schools, safety services and county leaders to lobby Columbus for return of funds and not expect taxpayers to absorb cost. Starve the Beast for addition taxes.

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2Knightcap(699 comments)posted 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I didn't see anywhere in the article where a commissioner mentioned that the county was going to pay 25% of their healthcare insurance. You would think they would since the taxpayers they are asking more money from pay that amount. You have to say no to these thieves and vote them out of office. Their only concern is their wallets getting fatter as yours shrinks. Vote no to both that's the only way they learn. And sometimes they don't understand what no means, so you might have to do it again and again.

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3Joe6pack(52 comments)posted 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Carol Rimedio-Righetti is completely clueless and was elected under very suspicious circumstances at our famous Board of Fixed Elections 4 years ago.

When her challenger steps up and says we need this tax I'll think about voting for it, until then I'm a NO vote to anything that would help this dolt stay in office.

For Carol and many of our other government employees, "dolt" is a noun and means a stupid person.

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4ytownsteelman(628 comments)posted 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I don't find a problem with these sales taxes. The county does provide quite a number of services that need to be paid for and that money must come from somewhere. I think that a lot of people actually think that by voting down a levy we are "teaching a lesson" to the commissioners, but we are only hurting ourselves. They still get their pay but it is the residents of the county who will suffer with reduced services. How much are you willing to suffer to teach this "lesson"? And what lesson are we teaching?

On the state level there actually was an 8 billion dollar deficit that had to be dealt with. Reducing the local govt. fund was one of the belt tightening measures that needed to be done in order to close that gap. Kasich is proving to be the adult in the room by doing what he had to do to solve the problem. Sometimes its painful but it was necessary.

Please put the good of the county and its residents- us- ahead of some irrational need for revenge against our elected officials.

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5southsidedave(4780 comments)posted 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Taxes are here to stay people...services cost money.

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6walter_sobchak(1910 comments)posted 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I would rather pay a sales tax than a property tax. What makes me scratch my head,we used to run the entire state with a 4% sales tax on hard goods with no state income tax. Now, we have a minimum sales tax of 6.5% on not just hard goods but on some services, like repairs to your car. We also have a state income tax, although not very large. The revenues from the sales taxes will more or less keep up with the rate of inflation but it is never enough. So, more and more taxes leads to more and more govt and more and more programs so that we have become dependent on the govt teat, which is now too big for even Dolly Parton.

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7uptowngirl(111 comments)posted 8 months, 2 weeks ago

It was just disrespectful to not postpone the hearing until another time. People with disabilities and chronic medical conditions should not have been out in the cold. These are the people who can least afford to be burdened with an increase in the sales tax. The commissioners lack sensitivity and are out of touch.

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8localguy(2 comments)posted 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Of course they held the meeting(1 of 2 they are obligated to have) when everything else was shut down...all the cronies attended and not a bad word was said about the taxes. Surprise!
And no one would go any way...nothing we can say will change a thing.

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