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The county needs sales tax revenue, not voter confusion

November 1, 2009
Morning Journal News

Columbiana County Commissioners are worried that voters might be confused about the language on Tuesday's ballot for the 1 percent sales tax.

The tax is not new, it is a continuation of the tax voters first approved 30 years ago and renewed again in 2005, but nowhere in the ballot language does it state the sales tax is either a renewal or a continuation of an existing tax. And, to further confuse matters, the ballot language talks about the tax being for "additional" revenue.

Commissioner Jim Hoppel said the problem is the county is prohibited by the Ohio Secretary of State's office from using the words "renewal" or "continuation" in the ballot language.

This tax accounts for 44 percent of the $18 million in revenue the county receives each year, so its renewal is vital to county operations. That's why when some of the 2,000 county voters who have already cast absentee ballots expressed confusion about the tax, commissioners became concerned.

The tax won't expire until the end of 2010, but commissioners have placed it on the ballot early for two reasons.

First, because of a quirk in the state law there would be a three-month interruption in collections in 2011 if the tax is renewed in the November election in the year it expires. If the tax is renewed this year, collection could continue uninterrupted in 2011.

Second, by putting the tax on Tuesday's ballot, commissioners have two more chances at getting it passed in 2010 before the tax would expire, should it fail. Commissioners are right to be concerned given the current recession and because during the tax's history voters have at times refused to pass it.

Even though we all hate paying taxes, the county needs this revenue to continue operating at its current level. And, as we've said before, a sales tax is the most fair tax because everyone pays equally.

So when you head to the polls Tuesday, remember, the sales tax is not new, we've been paying it for many years now. And supporting county operations is something we should all be willing to do.



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