YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) - A criminal justice tax for Mahoning County is going to be on the November ballot.
County Commissioners unanimously passed the resolution Wednesday morning. They decided on the half-percent sales tax renewal coupled with a quarter percent increase, with 100 percent of the revenue being used for public safety.
If passed, it will generate $24 million annually. Earmarking it a criminal justice tax means voters know exactly where their money is going.
Commissioner David Diztler said he thinks this is the first time the county has had a sales tax specifically earmarked for public safety. The tax would be for five years.
“It will make sure we don’t see that on-again, off-again closing of the jail,” Ditzler said.
The criminal justice system includes the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department, the 911 dispatch center, the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office and the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office.
Public safety is the bulk of the county’s budget and already has taken hits. The Sheriff’s office used to have a staff of 320 and it’s now 220.
“A $3 million deficit that we’re going to hit next year is going to equate to a 75-man layoff if it does get to that and I hope not,” said Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene.
Money from the tax would keep services the way they are. If it doesn’t pass, Greene will have to close a pod and bring in task forces and patrols to staff the jail.
“That does not mean to be a threat, but really what it is, is basic economics,” Greene said.
A half-percent sales tax renewal failed in the May primary election. Commissioners said there will be a campaign this time around, with different people from the community.
Some area pastors are already on board, while other residents signed up after public hearings about the tax.
“We have about 15 people already from the different places that we have already been and many people that have said they want to help,” said Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti.
Ditzler said they will do a fundraising campaign to promote the sales tax because taxpayer dollars cannot be spent on such activity.
Commissioners plan on having an organizational meeting by the end of the month. Anyone interested can call commissioners at their offices.
Ditzler said there really is not a Plan B if the tax fails on Nov. 4.