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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.


1NoBS(2692 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

The levy money will go to the sheriff and the other safety departments, but the commissioners will just remove a corresponding amount of general fund money from them. They'll be no better off than they are now. It's all a shell game, where they move money from here to there, depending on where they want the financial need to appear to be.

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2grazor50(104 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months 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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3redeye1(5535 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

It's very simple people . It's time to show the commissioners who the bosses really are. Its definitely not them it's us the voters. By voting NO on this tax bill we will show them to become more responsible with OUR money. If they can't, then its time to vote them all out.

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4steivo(540 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

An earmark to "public safety" just will not get my vote. Now if they were to commit to X number of new police officers, I would vote for the sales tax increase.

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5Roger_Thornhill(1052 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

Will the tax include free rides home for drunk public officials?

Really should be set up so they get the ride home BEFORE they are arrested so nobody has to go through the hassle of being UNarrested.

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6mrblue(1175 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

Sorry, I still don't trust the commissioners.

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7wastepro(58 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months 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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8thirtyninedollars(598 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

maybe they shouldn't be giving raises out if they can't keep people on the payroll. It should be a duty to work for the taxppayers not an entitlement to live a white collar lifestyle.

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9DontBanThisDrone(1014 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

Hopefully, this will work out as well as the Safety Services Levy that Warren passed several years ago.


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