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Mahoning County sales tax fails by slim margin

Published: Wed, May 7, 2014 @ 12:01 a.m.




The continuous renewal of Mahoning County’s half-percent sales tax failed by a 50.79 percent to 49.21 percent margin.

“I thought it would be close,” said David Ditzler, chairman of the county commissioners.

“I look at it as an opportunity, not a defeat. I look at it as an opportunity to come back in November with what I think the people are looking for, which is specific earmarks for the tax to be identified for certain uses,” he said.

“So, we come back and we look at identifying it specifically for criminal justice, for the prosecutor, the courts, and the sheriff’s department,” Ditzler said.

Ditzler proposed increasing the tax to be placed on the November ballot to a full 1 percent dedicated to the justice system.

A whole percent would bring in nearly $32 million of the justice system’s $40 million annual cost, he said.

The commissioners could place a sales tax on the November 2014 and May 2015 ballots. If at least a half percent would pass at either election, the county would lose no sales-tax revenue because the half percent that was on Tuesday’s ballot doesn’t expire until Sept. 30, 2015.

Ditzler said the commissioners and their budget director, Audrey Tillis, will need to examine whether any cutbacks in county government are necessary based on Tuesday’s loss.

“There’s probably a need for reductions just to balance the budget for next year, even with the sales tax,” still in effect, he said.

“It’s unfortunate that it failed. It was a renewal,” said Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti.

Righetti said she believes the commissioners should now consider earmarking a sales tax just for public safety. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to” put a sales tax on the Nov, 4 ballot in some form, she said.

“You can’t live on a half a percent. It will not work,” she said, referring to the other half percent that has been continuous since May 2007. Continuous means it has no stated expiration date.

“It was close, and, had there been a campaign, it would have passed,” observed David Betras, county Democratic Party chairman, referring to the minimal campaign effort on its behalf.

The tax defeated Tuesday brings $15.5 million in annual revenue to the county, which has a $50.2 million general fund budget for 2014.

Except for $1,050,000 going into the county’s debt service fund this year, the sales-tax revenue goes to the general fund, which is the county’s main operating fund. The general fund supports the county’s justice system, including the courts, jail, prosecutor’s and coroner’s offices and 911 dispatching center, board of elections and the central administration of county government.

The county commissioners had also considered seeking a quarter-percent additional sales tax on Tuesday’s ballot, but abandoned that idea in January.

Fearing voters would reject both the renewal and the new tax, they decided to place only the renewal on Tuesday’s ballot.

In a public hearing on the sales-tax renewal, county Auditor Michael V. Sciortino cited a warning from Standard & Poors that a loss of sales-tax revenue could jeopardize the stable financial outlook rating S&P has given the county.

Mahoning County’s total sales tax is 7 percent, with the first 5.75 percent going to the state, 1 percent to the county coffers and a quarter percent to the Western Reserve Transit Authority.

Of Ohio’s 88 counties, 50 exceed 7 percent; 15, including Mahoning, are at 7 percent; 19 are at 6.75 percent; and four are at 6.5 percent total sales tax.

For the 1 percent going to Mahoning County government, revenues grew 20.88 percent over five years since the bottom of the recession to $31,637,198 in 2013.


1rickking123(292 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

The sales tax was voted down because of the pay raises that were granted with utter disregard for the taxpayers of this county.

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2Southside_Res(172 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I voted against the tax. As a registered Dem, I also didn't vote for Carol Rimedo-Righetti. Count them both as votes of no confidence in our board of county commissioners. The opportunity, David Ditzler, is one of regaining voter confidence. Do we have to tell you everything?

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3bmanresident(597 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

When are these politicians going to realize that we are TAXED OUT!! the private sector does not get the bloated pay raises that the public sector so thoroughly enjoy!
It's also time they stop trying to shove these issues down our throat every election until it passes. We went out, voted it down, and that should be that.

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4Knightcap(699 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Maybe if they would have had all employees pay 25% of their health-care benefits when they got those hefty raises it would have passed.

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5Hmmmmm(48 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

well said SouthsideRes

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6handymandave(474 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Nothing I can add here. Except, too many county officials like Sciortino that make the county look bad with mistrust from the public. If you can't act properly in private, we don't trust you with our money in public!

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7grand4dad(196 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Right on Knightcap. There is absolutely no reason these employees should not have to pay toward health care. Bad decisions over the years by these commissioners is no excuse to keep taxes going up just so you can maintain the status quo. I hope they got the message. We're tired of the same old excuses.

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8walter_sobchak(1910 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Most rational-thinking people know taxes must be paid so that government can conduct the services that society needs and wants. Given a choice, I much prefer a sales tax as all people have to pay it. But people are also wise enough to know when they are being hood-winked. The whole manner in which the raises were passed out like Halloween candy over the last year were ridiculous and eye-opening. We are told that pay raises were given on a par with the PERS payment the county would make on the employee's behalf. But, that was already on top of the percentage that the county was already required to contribute. Who in the private sector would have received such a generous handout from their employer? Add to that the health-care benefits received and the accumulation of unused vacation and sick time to be paid out at higher pay rates in subsequent years!

The commissioners are getting exactly what they asked for. They will now have to make do with less revenue. I'm not against giving increases in pay rates for longevity and experience. But, as in the private sector, we are using technology to do more work, more efficiently, and not receiving grand bonuses. our county government set-up in Ohio is archaic and outdated. It is time to eliminate some of these independent, elected offices (and their fiefdoms), combine budgets and staff, and get more efficient.

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9TiredTaxpayer(44 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

“It’s unfortunate that it failed. It was a renewal,” said Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti. Hey Commissioners, let me clue you in on why it was defeated - you tried to jam the renewal through as a continuous tax. It has nothing to do with "earmarking". The taxpayers demand accountability. We see the raises that get doled out without it. You burned us once We won't allow that to happen again. Make it a 5 year renewal if you want it to pass, Commissioners.

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10ladiesrule(17 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

This is the first time that I have voted no on a Mahoning County sales tax issue. #1 - I will not vote for it to be continuous. #2 - Springfield Township is part of Mahoning County, none of our roads ever get paved! None are on the list for this year. Please come try to drive on Columbiana-New Castle Rd, Springfield Rd ( between St Rt 165 and South Range Rd), Calla Rd, Unity Rd, etc, etc.....

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11JustThink123(27 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Good Job Vindicator, you got what you wanted. Your hate for public employees continue.

Also stop saying public employees should pay 25% towards their healthcare. Nobody in the private sector pays that much, and if they do, they have little to no skill and or education. I've been in the private sector for many years and never payed more then 15%. All my attorney, accountant, and other private sector friends all pay 0%-15% towards their healthcare. You know what pays 25%? Walmart. Anbody asking for that must work at Walrmart.

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12TiredTaxpayer(44 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

richardlewis973's rant is a perfect example of the entitled and reckless attitude that the taxpayers are rejecting. We don't object to the tax, just the permanent nature of it. Get that thru your head!

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13NilesOhio(724 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

@JustThink123 - I don't know what fantasy island you're living on, but most people in the private sector pay about 50% of their healthcare premiums. I do, and I'm neither uneducated nor unskilled.

Employers in this area know they have the upper hand since unemployment is disproportionately high, so why should they pay more?

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14DwightK(1256 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

That Vindicator article gave the false impression that raises were being given out like candy instead of focusing on a few raises that merited reporting.

There will be consequences for not funding this and none of them will be good. The sheriff's office will bear the brunt of cuts and we can't afford to have less law enforcement in the Mahoning Valley.

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15uptowngirl(111 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I voted no, not because I am against the sales tax but because I was against making it a permanent tax. The commissioners just do not get it. The way they represented the tax as a renewal was fraudulent. The taxpayers have no one representing their interests in union negotiations leaving the ballot box as the only thing the taxpayers have going for them. The commissioners can voluntarily take a pay cut to help the situation if they find this so upsetting.

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16TiredTaxpayer(44 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

richardlewis973 is obviously on the county payroll. How else can you explain the arrogance of his statements? He declares that the tax is essential so case closed right?!? The Commissioners require the department heads to support their requested budgets but we, the taxpayers, can't hold the same Commissioners to that standard according to richardlewis973. With logic like that, no wonder he can't make it in the private sector.

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17youngspartanrepublican(92 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Only in this backward county is the response to a defeated tax "let's put it back on and DOUBLE it."

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18Hmmmmm(48 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Cty Comm Carol you are fortunate you do not have an opponent in Nov. or you would be in trouble

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19mjnovaksr(95 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

After seeing how badly the County Commissioners dealt with pay increases, both in the past and now, I have no confidence these current commissioners have the best interests of the voters, their constituents, at heart. The half percent was supposed to be temporary, and we should defeat it now and forever until we see some sign of responsibility in our county! How irresponsible it is to pay the benefits of the county workers, then when it becomes unpopular, grant them 30-40 percent increases to cover those same expenses! That is defending the indefensible!! Now they want to use more subterfuge to pass double that amount in the Fall? I hope sincerely the seniors, the long term unemployed, and everyone else in Mahoning County with half a brain will reject this lunacy again and again until we see some sign of good management from this and all future sets of commissioners! And each time you hit one of those rim deep potholes throughout our county remember those immense raises so many county workers received....and save your money to repair your tires and your car instead of giving it to wastrels in office!

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20L0L(660 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I love the numbers you people come up with! 25% healthcare, 40% raises?? Do you people just make this up and then believe it? You're right, public employees don't deserve raises. And before anyone decides to assume I work for the county I don't. However, I did work for a place that didn't get raises for ten years. But we deserved that and shouldn't of got a raise because we were public employees right?? You people are jackazzes. At least with the county sales tax EVERYONE is paying it even the people getting handouts. And pass the WRTA bus tax and then turn around and bich about a tax renewal.

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21YtownParent(324 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Nobody rational thinks public employees or elected officials shouldn't make a living doing their jobs. Rational people do have a problem with public employees & elected officials taking home a wage that is much greater (some times twice as much) as the average wages of their employers, the taxpayers. Would anyone argue that private sector employers should be making less than their subordinates? That the Walmart clerk or McDonald's cook should be taking home as much or more than the CEO of the company?

The commissioner's and Paul Gain's thoughts on PERS flips wouldn't hold any water in the private sector either. By their philosophy every employee in America should get a raise to offset the increase in payroll taxes and Obama-care's mandates. After all, it's “nondisciplinary reduction in salary” to force an employee to make a contribution without increasing their wages. I wonder if any private sector employee could get into court with that argument, let alone win it.

The tax failed because we rational voters are sick and tired of the above the law attitude of the public sector. Whether it's Sciortino's drunk driving (and endangering the lives of the community) or the PERS flip increases, the public sector acts as if it is above the law and expects the taxpayers to treat them as such. Taxpayers aren't likely to roll over and give them a free reign by voting for a continuous tax.

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22L0L(660 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

The only difference between public and private sectors is that we have to put up with the private sectors comments since they are our "bosses". As far as your comment about the suboardinates making more money than the bosses maybe that worker at Walmart or McDonalds should have done better with their life. So since I went after and obtained an education, further my education with certifications to do my job and entered this field I should be compared to a McDonalds worker? I don't think so. I worked hard to be where I'm at and yes I deserve to be paid accordingly and certainly more than a McDonalds worker. But the private sector thinks we should never get raises. I love how you people are so informed and experts on our contracts. Like I previously stated I worked somewhere where there weren't raises for ten years. All teh while healthcare, pension and other expenses increased as well as cost of living in general. But THAT was ok right? I or my fellow employees didn't deserve a raise we should've been content to keep paying more while the cost of living increased and our pay stayed the same. Great thinking!!

I'm not disagreeing with you on the point that some politicians whatever they want but I do disagree with you about the wage/raises issue. If we're qualified and doing a certain job the pay should reflect it. I don't care if its more than our "bosses" like you stated. I worked hard for where I'm at and what I do so I expect to be compensated accordingly.

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23YtownParent(324 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Sorry @LOL, but getting a college degree doesn't make you or anyone else is a hard worker. For the past 30 years schools have been marketing college as "work smart not hard", so you are going to have a long uphill battle to convince the public that having a degree automatically makes you as a hard worker. The conventional wisdom has been that getting a degree makes you smart enough not to do any hard work at your job. (I disagree with it, but the damage has been done. It's created enormous class rifts and left the US with a shortage of skilled labor. Mikeroweworks.com addresses this issue better than I can and in more depth.)

I have two advanced degrees and no it is not easy work, but it is easier than picking crops, flipping burgers, picking up garbage, hanging drywall, making steel pipes, etc. I don't know about you, but I choose to do the work to earn my degrees, it wasn't work my employers required of me. If your employer made you go get your degree and pay for it out of pocket, then you should be compensated for the cost and time, but that's not the picture you are painting. You made a personal decision to do the work to meet requirements for a job you wanted, then you got the job. That doesn't give anyone a right to dictate the terms of their employment to their boss. Go tell a private employer that you "worked hard for where I'm at and I expect to be compensated accordingly" and see what happens. You'll be told that's your right, but as long as you work at this job you'll be paid "x" amount, if you don't like it you are free to go find another job.

Guess what, every public employee has the right to quit and go work elsewhere if they think they're being paid less than they deserve. The big question is why don't you or other public employees walk out and go work someplace where you'll get the wages you think you deserve. I suspect the answer is because no one in the private sector would pay it either.

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24L0L(660 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

The same can be said to the private sector employee. If you think public employees have it easy and get paid better than the private, then quit the private and join the public. My point was that I worked hard to achieve where I'm at. I'm tired of people biching and saying we have it easy and are overpaid. God forbid a public employee get a raise without the private sector adding their two cents.

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25L0L(660 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

The same can be said to the private sector employee. If you think public employees have it easy and get paid better than the private, then quit the private and join the public. My point was that I worked hard to achieve where I'm at. I'm tired of people biching and saying we have it easy and are overpaid. God forbid a public employee get a raise without the private sector adding their two cents.

I do agree with you about the trade career though. I wish I wouldve went in that career. I would be making more money and wouldnt have to hear people bich if I got a raise.

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26YtownParent(324 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

It doesn't matter if you are public or private sector. Sure public sector employees have to deal with taxpayers putting their two cents in, and maybe deciding not to vote for taxes to keep handing out raises. Private sector employees aren't immune from the scrutiny of their corporate boards and share holders, who usually say no to raises before handing them out. Yes, a private sector employee is able to quit and pursue a public sector job, but the catch is there aren't as many public jobs as their are private because public employees don't walk away in the numbers private sector employees do because they know their "qualifications" won't get them as big a paycheck in the private sector.

As for having it easy, well one public sector employee made 3 posts today. Was that while they are on the job? From a government computer at taxpayer expense? A private sector employee would be shown the door if they where reading and posting to other websites on the job.

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27L0L(660 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

You're right Ytownparent, I should be working 24 hours a day in return for my lavish salary.

"public employees don't walk away in the numbers private sector employees do because they know their "qualifications" won't get them as big a paycheck in the private sector."

-Mine would so speak for yourself.

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28kk80586(227 comments)posted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

"-Mine would so speak for yourself."
go for it....

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