No one likes to think about taxes, especially right now with the current state of the economy.
The Columbiana County Board of Commissioners, however, is being proactive by thinking about the 1 percent sales tax before it expires at the end of next year. Commissioners have learned that a change in state law could result in a three-month interruption in collecting the tax, even if it is renewed on time. For example, if the tax is renewed in the November election the year it expires, state law requires that collection of the tax be stopped Dec. 31 and it would not resume until April 1. But if the tax is approved the year before it expires, collections would continue without interruption.
The 1 percent sales tax, along with the .5 percent sales tax, represents a sizable chunk of the revenue the commissioners have to work with each year. The two taxes combine to bring in $12 million annually, so even a three-month interruption would create significant cash-flow problems for the county.
Commissioners are scheduling the public hearings necessary for placing the issue before voters, but they haven't committed themselves to asking for another five-year extension of the tax or requesting that the 1 percent become a permanent fixture, like the .5 percent. Commissioners say they will wait until after the public hearings to make that decision. Apparently they are hoping the hearings will provide them some insight into the mood of voters.
We think commissioners should consider making the 1 percent a permanent sales tax. Because it represents so much of the county's revenue and because the current board of commissioners have proven themselves to be trustworthy stewards of the taxpayers' money, we believe voters should decide that it just makes sense to finance our county government on a continuous basis. By putting it on the ballot early as a permanent tax, commissioners would be able to return to the voters with a different option if it fails. Commissioners should be brave and ask voters to support the tax permanently.