June 26, 30 Mahoning County sales tax hearings set

Published: Fri, June 6, 2014 @ 12:02 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken



Mahoning County commissioners have approved two public hearings concerning a county sales-tax proposal for the Nov. 4 ballot, and will ponder conducting a poll to gauge support for it.

The hearings will be at 5:30 p.m. June 26 at the Covelli Centre, 229 E. Front St., and at 6 p.m. June 30 at McMahon Hall at the Mill Creek MetroParks Farm, 7574 Columbiana-Canfield Road, (state Route 46) Canfield.

The commissioners’ Thursday resolution did not specify options for amounts and durations of a sales tax the commissioners would be presenting for consideration at the hearings.

David Ditzler, panel chairman, said a sales tax devoted solely to the criminal-justice system is still his “total focus.”

Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said a random-sample scientific poll of likely voters’ opinions concerning the county sales tax will probably be conducted, with the poll to be paid for by a private donor.

“We’re going to have a full-fledged campaign” but no tax dollars can legally be used to campaign for the tax, she said. “Fundraisers will be done. We will have an organizational chart of people” leading the campaign, she added.

“I think it’s important to get random sampling” of public opinion, which would include the views of people who don’t attend the public hearings, Ditzler said.

The commissioners’ action followed the narrow defeat of the half-percent sales tax that was proposed on the May 6 ballot for continuous renewal. Continuous means the tax would have no stated expiration date.

The tax lost by 519 votes, with most rural residents voting against it.

“We didn’t run a campaign. We didn’t want to spend taxpayers’ dollars sending out information to tell people where their money’s being spent,” Ditzler said of the failed effort.

“We do have to get community activists and community supporters and businesspeople and labor” to help present the tax-campaign message in the fall, he said.

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

The sales tax that was defeated last month won’t expire until Sept. 30, 2015, giving the commissioners this fall’s ballot and next year’s May primary to pass it without suffering any revenue loss.

Together, the two half-percent sales taxes generate nearly $32 million a year, with nearly all that money going to the county’s general fund, which is its main operating fund. The general fund budget for this year is $50.2 million.

The general fund supports the justice system, including the jail, courts, and prosecutor’s office, the 911 center and the central administration of county government.

In other action, the commissioners approved spending $2,675 for Kreidler Construction Co. of North Lima to examine the south wall of the county administration building on Front Street.

A 2010 architect’s report to the commissioners said expansion joints should be installed to correct severe horizontal bowing of that building’s south wall, which the report said might collapse.

“We want to be aggressive as far as finding out why and moving forward with correcting it,” said James Fortunato, county purchasing director, adding that no bricks are falling from the wall.

The commissioners also approved two road closings that will begin this month.

Lake Park Boulevard between Bandy and Oyster roads in Smith Township will close for about 60 days beginning Monday for painting and rehabilitation of a bridge that carries the boulevard over the Mahoning River.

The intersection of Mathews and Sheridan roads in Boardman will close for about 45 days beginning June 16 for installation of a traffic circle, known as a roundabout.

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