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There isn’t a lot of time to sell Mahoning sales tax to voters

Published: Sun, July 13, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

The general election is Nov. 4, and on the ballot will be a sales-tax issue that has become an article of faith for Mahoning County commissioners. Just two months ago, county voters said “no” to the renewal of a 0.5-percent sales tax because commissioners Anthony Traficanti, Carol Rimedio-Righetti and David Ditzler decided to go for broke (in a manner of speaking) and make it permanent. The tax had been on the books for a five-year period.

Although the 519-vote losing margin out of 32,965 votes cast was a hopeful sign, the general election will be a different proposition. For starters, there will be many more residents going to the polls given the statewide and congressional races. Beyond that, the commissioners are not only seeking to keep the 0.5-percent tax in place, but are going after an additional 0.25 percent.

At first glance, it may seem counter-intuitive for the commissioners to seek a 0.75-percent tax when voters rejected the renewal of a lower amount, but they and other Mahoning County officials, led by Sheriff Jerry Greene, believe there’s a strong case to be made.

However, this question looms: Is there enough time to win over an electorate that is, at best, suspicious about government? The on- going criminal investigations of county officeholders are a major point of contention for private-sector taxpayers, as is the slow recovery from the national economic recession that hit in late 2008.

The sheriff, the county commissioners and others answer in the affirmative. That’s because they believe they have a strong pitch for passage of the 0.75-percent tax: All the estimated $24 million generated would be used to support the sheriff’s, prosecutor’s and coroner’s offices, and the 911 emergency dispatching center.

“This is the first time that 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,” Greene said after the commissioners voted to place the three-quarter percent sales tax dedicated to public safety on the Nov. 4 ballot. “It is certainly going to add stability to the criminal justice system.”

Both the half-percent renewal and the additional 0.25 percent would be in effect for five years.

Public hearings

The commissioners hosted two public hearings before they made the decision on the ballot issue, but few residents showed up.

The first session was attended by county officials and the press; the second session brought out about 50 residents.

While some of the attendees voiced support for the public safety tax, others weren’t so enthusiastic about paying taxes of any kind.

Commissioners Traficanti, Rimedio-Righetti and Ditzler plan to continue the public campaign for the ballot issue to the very end. That’s the right strategy, especially in the rural communities where the “no” votes ruled the day in the May primary.

There is a case to be made for renewing the 0.5-percent tax and adding a 0.25-percent tax, but county officials must know that private- sector taxpayers are looking for reassurances that the money won’t be squandered.

The 0.5-percent sales tax expires in September 2015, which means that if it is again defeated this year, commissioners will have one more chance to take it before the voters — in the May 2015 primary.


1Jerry(845 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

I've said it before:

As a believer in little “r” republicanism (not to be mistaken for a Republican), I would be very happy to support local government with local taxes for local control of most issues. However, the Democrats who run the local governments here, are also the same people who have cursed us with big government mindless fools like Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Schmucky Schumer, Sherrod Brown, and little Timmy Ryan; to pick our pockets and control us from a federal level.

The local Democrats in-charge need to stop supporting these mindless fools (just because they have a "D" after their names), and at least show some independent thought and action towards getting the federal government under control and out of my life; then talk to me about more local taxes.

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2questionreality(728 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Will Belinky coordinate the jitney service as part of hos community service?

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3handymandave(578 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

This isn't going to pass. Although they have a great argument for the need they went ahead and got greedy by attempting to make it a permanent tax. The commissioners are attempting to take away a very important tool that the voters have. If they approve and believe in their county officials, they pass the tax. If voters believe that the money is being spent foolishly and outside of their own boundaries they take it away. A permanent tax takes the ability away and in my opinion will fail. The way that Obimbo has been spending tax money throughout his presidency is not conducive to a pat on the back from voters either. People are fed up, don't have extra monies to spend on themselves and their families, and have a general mistrust of Government. Sorry boys, you helped aid the process by putting this Presidential Baffoon in office. I think there is going to have to be some major changes in Government before people will be willing to open their pocketbooks more freely but november isn't that far from now, let's see what happens.

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4repeaters(314 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

First, I would suggest everyone read this editorial from 12/29/13......http://www.vindy.com/news/2013/dec/29/commissioners-strike-a-blow-for-responsi/?newswatch....Now, we have heard that the state cut our local funds how many times? how many years ago? inheritance tax was started to be removed from local taxes how many years ago? What adjustments (new remedies and mind boggling ideas) have produced what other than minor layoffs , pay increases, and of course, more levies. Now comes one of the better ones.....' we are not receiving the monies from the casinos that the state promised would be generated into our coffers', which translates into another future levy. Please, get you heads out of your ah, ah, ah,.......sand box........ rescind those pay raises and promotions, quit trying to save yourselves by spinning off the law departments into a future separate levy, and LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS. Always remember the motto, ' 3% is a cola increase; 10% is a raise.'

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5redeye1(5615 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

I really don't care what the three fools who we call commissioners have to say. If we vote this tax levy in for our safety benefit. As another poster has stated they will have EXTRA money from the other tax levy to spend wastefully. These three don't know how to say NO to workers of this county. They are always saying Yes we can, We will find a way to make it work. Now that they have said YES too many times they are in a self made bind. Well let's just see how really good they are at managing OUR tax monies now, when we all vote DOWN this new levy .They just might have to work this time to earn their pay

VOTE NO everyone to wasteful spending !!!!!!!!!!!!

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6steivo(540 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

If they tell me how many additional police officers they will add before November, I will vote for the tax.

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