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Voter turnout expected to play role in Mahoning sales tax issue

Voter turnout expected to play role in Mahoning sales tax issue

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Staff report


The fate of Mahoning County’s justice sales tax renewal measure, set to appear on the May 7 ballot, could be decided by voter turnout, which is typically low in odd-numbered years and primary elections.

The measure does not seek to increase the .75 percent tax but would renew it for another five years. The county’s sales tax is currently 7.25 percent, which also includes 5.75 percent to the state, .50 percent to the county’s general fund and .25 percent to the Western Reserve Transit Authority.

Currently, consumers pay 75 cents on every $100 spent in the county on sales tax-applicable goods and services. Necessities such as most foods and prescription drugs are not taxed.

The tax is projected to generate $25,168,000 for the county justice system this year, said Audrey Tillis, executive director for the commissioners board. That makes up the majority of the funding for the county sheriff, prosecutor and coroner’s offices, and for 911 dispatching services.

Previously, the justice fund was supported by two half-cent levies and other general-fund money. In 2014, voters denied a permanent renewal of one of the half-cent levies. They later revised the ask to a .75 percent levy dedicated to criminal justice, to be renewed every five years.

Voters narrowly approved that renewal by only 1,322 votes in the 2014 general election, when voter turnout was at 41.5 percent, according to the county board of elections.

Voters rejected the first introduction of the justice tax measure by just 539 votes in the primary election earlier that year, when just 21.9 percent of voters hit the polls.

Voter turnout for this May's election has been projected as low as 10 percent of the county's eligible electorate.

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