Columbiana County Commissioner Jim Hoppel has a point: No one from outside of our state or our county is ever going to knock on your front door and offer to help pay your property tax. But, shoppers from neighboring counties and states do just that when they visit our county to purchase goods and services and pay our county sales tax.
Actually anyone who makes purchases in our county, along with helping to fund our county services with the sales tax, helps lower your real estate taxes if you're a property owner.
How does that work? Well, back in 2002, when Columbiana County voters passed the 1 percent sales tax county commissioners agreed to knock 2 mills off the real estate tax, which essentially returns $3 million to county property owners. Because of this, the general fund receives no real estate money.
And while Hoppel's reason for supporting the 1 percent sales tax renewal on the May 4 ballot is obvious, the reasons for county residents, especially property owners, to pass the tax should be equally obvious.
First off, the tax is a renewal. That's right. Silly state laws prohibited commissioners from calling the tax a renewal on the ballot, but that's what it is. Nothing prevents us from printing the truth here, so let's call a spade a spade. Even though it's called a continuation on the ballot, it's actually a renewal of the same tax we've been paying for the past 10 years. It's nothing new and there's no increase.
This is also the same issue that was on the ballot last November, but failed by a 63 percent-to-37-percent margin. Commissioners believe misleading ballot language that referred to the tax as additional revenue, caused confusion and led to the defeat. Since then commissioners have received permission from the Secretary of State's Office to use the word continuation on the ballot.
The money generated by the 1 percent sales tax isn't spent frivolously, either. It provides 44 percent of the county general fund revenue and is used to fund essential services like the sheriff's department, county courts, the juvenile detention center, services for veterans and senior citizens, operating the county jail, as well as other agencies we would find it difficult to do without. Imagine losing 44 percent of your annual income. Where would you begin to cut? The loss in services to our county would be devastating, if the tax does not pass.
And, Hoppel and fellow commissioners, Penny Traina and Dan Bing, have been practicing frugal spending all along. The Morning Journal contacted the auditor's offices in the six Ohio counties closest in size to ours - Ashtabula, Allen, Delaware, Fairfield, Wayne and Wood. We learned the six counties in 2009 spent an average of $31.7 million or 40 percent more than the $18.9 million Columbiana County spent. So no one can accuse our officials of overspending.
The sales tax is also the fairest tax because it is paid by everyone, not just property owners. Visitors who purchase goods or services within our county help pay this tax to the tune of $2 million per year. That's a lot of help from non-residents.
If the tax fails again May 4, commissioners can still put it back on the ballot again in November. However, passage in November would result in the collection of the tax being stopped Dec. 31 and not beginning again until the first quarter of 2011. That would cause the county to lose $1 million per month while collections ceased. If the tax is passed in May, collections would continue uninterrupted.
And, if the tax should fail in both May and November, commissioners would have the option, and would probably have no choice, but to reimpose the 2 mills of real estate tax they stopped collecting back in 2002. That would raise taxes by $61 per year for the owner of a $100,000 home, but it would still generate only $3.1 million, well short of the $8 million the tax brings in.
Everyone's aware that economic times are not the best, and there is a big anti-tax movement gaining a lot of attention. But let's not be silly about this. This is not a new tax, we've been paying it all along and the services funded by the revenue it produces are definitely needed. And everyone gets to help pay their fair share with this one.
Vote for the sales tax. It just makes sense.