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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(330 comments)posted 2 years 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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2bmanresident(607 comments)posted 2 years 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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3handymandave(567 comments)posted 2 years 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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42muchtax(892 comments)posted 2 years ago

People are taxed out first shutdown the sheriff TJ Assion / Slrentno drunk taxi service, these two should of been fired that would of saved some money! Bring in the Cadillac healthcare in line with the private sector including employee contribution! Then people were not happy with Ditzler and his counterparts handing out 10,20,30 & 40 percent raises while the private sector may get 2 or 3%.

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5NoBS(2695 comments)posted 2 years ago

Ditzler, PAY ATTENTION!!! IT WAS DEFEATED BECAUSE IT'S PERMANENT!!! You can stick all your guesses and willful denial - making it permanent is what defeated it.

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6grand4dad(216 comments)posted 2 years 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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7walter_sobchak(2634 comments)posted 2 years 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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8ladiesrule(18 comments)posted 2 years 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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9republicanRick(1700 comments)posted 2 years ago

They increased employee cost by $ 6,000,000 in just the last year and told us "we are tightening our belt".

Meanwhile our roads are in deplorabe shape and some are barely driveable. The commissioners are clueless.

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10JustThink123(27 comments)posted 2 years 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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11republicanRick(1700 comments)posted 2 years ago

We do not trust the management skills of our commissioners, that is why the permanent aspect was voted down.

This is called checks and balances and why the American way has been so succesful. Voters hold the ultimate say and when they do not trust their leaders, then the money pot is taken away.

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12NilesOhio(973 comments)posted 2 years 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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13redeye1(5538 comments)posted 2 years ago

rich You can't operate with a million less dollars . Then maybe it's time to cut back some USELESS employees . Maybe we should start with you. People can't afford to do much of anything now with all the taxes we pay now.. The roads around here suck. The road dept. keeps wasting money on cold patch and then they just throw a shovel full of the junk in the hole and move on to the next one. They don't care if there is water in the hole they just dump the cold patch in.

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14DwightK(1531 comments)posted 2 years 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(139 comments)posted 2 years 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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16UNCOMMONSENSE(616 comments)posted 2 years ago

richardlewis973 obviously you benefit from the tax. The tax does not have to be permanent. If the commissioners are good stewards of the taxpayer's money, the public will renew the tax. This is the only tool that we have to make sure that the money is spent properly. Once the tax is permanent, they are no longer accountable. I also find it amazing that a county commissioner is paid $76,000 a year when the median county household wage is $35,248.

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17youngspartanrepublican(92 comments)posted 2 years 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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18mrblue(1175 comments)posted 2 years ago

I lost confidence in the county commissioners a long time ago. I don't believe that they are a good management team. As payback, the pot holes will remain.

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19NoBS(2695 comments)posted 2 years ago

The tax failed because of it being permanent. When we gave the county the other levy as a permanent tax, both sides shared the understanding that we voters wanted and deserve some say in spending, thus we want the other half of the county's income to be put before us for renewal. Fix the damn roads - and do it right, by filling and compacting the holes, not just throwing blacktop in the general area of the holes - and get your fiscal house in order, and MAYBE we'll give you your tax. But not permanently.

We also know once you get this tax locked in, the new taxes are all written up, just waiting to go. Dream on. Show us you deserve it, not that you just want it.

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20redeye1(5538 comments)posted 2 years ago

Dit-Witer says he wants to raise the sales tax to 1% in November. When is he going to get it, the people are tired of the money grabbing tactics that these so-called fine demoncratic leaders use.. The people are just TAXED out. The economy sucks, so they just might as well, grin and bear it like the rest of us have to

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21YtownParent(924 comments)posted 2 years 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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22YtownParent(924 comments)posted 2 years 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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23YtownParent(924 comments)posted 2 years 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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24DSquared(1757 comments)posted 2 years ago

Amazing that everyone here complains about their ELECTED Democratic, corrupt, public officials. Yet they keep voting straight ticket for them and their family members who follow in their footsteps to the public trough! The names never change. lol

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25kk80586(229 comments)posted 2 years ago

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

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262muchtax(892 comments)posted 2 years ago

The county need to make some cuts how about that 800 dollar uniform allowance a year for sheriffs or how about the yearly boot allowance for the county engineers including office! Put GPS on all county vehicles to see when the plow trucks are at stores or in front of thier homes in the winter full of salt? Trumbull did this and found the one employee at her campground every day? Just a few thoughts for ditzler, trafficanti and carol. You people know how to spend any ideas on saving?

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