YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — When Mahoning County voters head to the polls in May, they will see only one sales tax issue on the ballot.
County leaders believe that’s all taxpayers will be willing to accept for the time being.
Commissioners had toyed with the idea of placing a pair of issues on the ballot, but after holding a series of public meetings on the subject, they pulled a quarter-percent additional sales tax off the table.
Commissioners on Thursday did agree to ask voters to make permanent a half-percent portion of the sales tax that is set to expire at the end of this year. The other half penny of that local tax is already continuous.
And while county leaders said they will push to have the issue passed in May, they also will begin an education campaign looking to prove the county still needs an additional quarter-percent on top of what’s collected right now.
The plan will be to show exactly where those extra revenues will be spent.
“And I think just putting it in with the general fund or just a general tax increase that isn’t earmarked just opens the door to suspicion and people want to see that the money is going to go the needs that we say are there,” said Mahoning County Commissioner David Ditzler.
Each half percent brings in about $14 million to $15 million for the county’s General Fund, but commissioners were worried trying to get an extra amount approved in May would cause a backlash against the renewal and leave the county facing massive cuts.
Many, like Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene, insist the new revenue is needed to avoid cuts down the road.
“I’m sure if there’s any type of cut, it’s probably going to come out of the sheriff’s office. I hope not, but I’m a realist. And history will repeat itself. They’re the biggest budget,” Greene said.
Commissioners saidthey could try for that additional tax issue in November, assuming the levy in May is approved.
Commissioners told voters at the public meetings that revenue in the county is down more than $10 million since 2008. The additional tax would have generated $7.75 million a year.