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Mahoning commissioners place tax for public safety on ballot

Published: Thu, July 3, 2014 @ 12:10 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken



The Mahoning County commissioners have placed a three-quarter percent sales tax dedicated to public safety on the Nov. 4 ballot.

On Wednesday, the three commissioners voted unanimously to place on the ballot the version of the tax that restricts use of its revenues to the sheriff’s, prosecutor’s, and coroner’s offices and 911 emergency dispatching center.

The commissioners had presented at the recent sales tax hearings in Youngstown and Canfield both the restricted version and an alternative version that would have allowed unrestricted use of the revenue in the county’s general fund, which is its main operating fund.

The measure would renew for five years an existing half-percent sales tax that generates about $16 million a year and add a quarter-percent tax of the same duration that would generate about $8 million annually, for a combined total of about $24 million.

Of the county’s $53.3 million 2013 general fund budget, $39.1 million, or 73.43 percent, went to public safety and court functions.

“Going with an extra one-quarter percent is not a popular decision, but you show unity and that you’re doing the right thing and you care about the criminal-justice system,” Sheriff Jerry Greene told the commissioners after their vote.

“This will be the first time that the voters in Mahoning County will actually have a chance to vote for a sales tax that they know exactly what the money is going to be spent on,” he added.

“It is certainly going to add stability to the criminal-justice system,” Greene said.

“It says that we are serious about the safety of this community,” Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said of the commissioners’ selection of the public safety option. Traficanti said the tax will allow the county jail to remain fully open.

“When that jail is fully open, the homicide rates in the Valley are down, and I think it’s important to our families and our children that that remains that way,” Traficanti said.

The only way to maintain economic development, create jobs, and increase the local population “is to maintain a safe community,” said David Ditzler, chairman of the county commissioners.

The county has another half-percent sales tax the voters made continuous in May 2007.

Each of the current half-percent sales taxes generate about $16 million a year, for a total of about $32 million.

Except for $1,050,000 going into the county’s debt-service fund this year, the sales-tax revenue goes to the general fund.

Audrey Tillis, county budget director, said the county needs the $8 million a year from the extra quarter percent to compensate for recent losses averaging $8 million annually in income from state funding, investments and the housing of federal prisoners in the county jail.

The county’s general fund budget this year totals $54.1 million, including nearly $2.6 million carried over from 2013 into 2014.


1grazor50(56 comments)posted 2 months, 2 weeks ago

wake up taxpayers, going from $16m to $24 million income from the tax is a 50% increase in revenue. The money is earmarked for the justice system, all that does is release money from the other half percent permanent tax in place so the controllers can once again start unrestricted use of taxpayers money.REMEMBER, this is a SALES TAX, every item over the years that has raised in price, automatically sends more of your money to the tax collector. THEY outspend this increase and need more, always the same, government spending is out of control at all levels, TIME to say enough is enough.

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

No mention of the outrageous raises that was taken from the taxpayers to load up their pockets. There's even talk of another round of raises going out after the sales tax is passed. You just don't handout 10, 20, 30 % raises while the private sector is working within their budget which includes cutbacks and extra expenses. No mention of all county employed paying 20-30% toward their Cadillac health-care contribution. No mention of how buying that white elephant Oakhill has put us in debt. Has anyone ever figured what the total cost and annual expense is? They got the wrong people indicted if you ask me. What about corruption in the county? What have you done to make cuts? Has any of those political hacks been let go? When it comes to the public trough there is no halftime to take a break. It's constant feeding out of pockets. Remember when electing people to these offices. Are these people really qualified or good at bullsh!ting. Can you work with in a budget? Are you smart enough to make the office more efficient? Do you have ideas where you can save the taxpayer money, instead of we need more money to keep the status quo of more raises and were not going to raise the health-care contribution. These current commissioners are not qualified to run the county. They should be voted out asap.

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3wastepro(46 comments)posted 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The County carried over $2.6 million dollars from 2013 to 2014 that was excess. Now they want a additional $8 million with the .25 percent increase. Get realistic, .5 percent is enough!!!!

I am voting No on this tax increase.

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