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No naysayers at sales tax hearing

Mahoning County seeks temporary 5-year 0.25% increase

CANFIELD — No opposition was voiced Monday during the first public hearing to discuss a proposed 0.25 percent sales tax increase to fund road and bridge repairs in Mahoning County over the next five years.

Following a presentation by Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginnetti on how the money would be spent, township trustees from Berlin and Green spoke in support of the temporary sales tax increase.

Mahoning County commissioners are expected to vote following a second public hearing on the issue to decide whether the proposal should be placed on the November ballot for voters. Such a tax hike would generate between $8 million and $9 million annually and expire after five years.

The second hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday in the Mahoning County commissioners hearing room at the Mahoning County Courthouse, 120 Market St., downtown Youngstown.

Commissioner David Ditzler said the tax, which amounts to 25 cents per $100 spent on taxable goods, would be a “small price to pay” for good roads and a lot of “bang for the buck.”

“It is a boost the county needs,” Ditzler said.

The county sales tax rate now is 7.25 percent; but nearly all of that money is sent to the state. When a sale on taxable goods is made in the county, Ohio collects 5.75 percent sales tax and the local government receives 1.5 percent sales tax. The increase would make Mahoning County’s sales tax 7.5 percent. Columbiana County’s rate is a 7.25 percent and Trumbull County’s sits at 6.75 percent.

Ditzler said a blown-out tire caused by a pothole, which could damage more of the wheel than just the tire, could cost hundreds of dollars to repair, but paying minutely more in a purchase throughout the year is an investment that pays off.

Green Township Trustee David Slagle said he supports the measure because it will be good for the entire community and keep the roads in better shape for local drivers and their vehicles, and for government-owned vehicles such as school buses and the buses used to transport the public on the Western Reserve Transit Authority’s system, police cars and firetrucks.

Ginnetti said bad roads cause police and ambulances to slow down or cause bumpy rides for critical patients.

Berlin Township Trustee Jodi Kale said she supports the measure because it will make it easier to create collaborative projects that share costs and create bigger buying power for smaller townships.

Ginnetti said by combining the projects into one, better prices on materials will be forthcoming.

After 20 years of a “stagnant” budget in the engineer’s office, even though the costs of materials have doubled, the budget needs the boost from the proposed tax, Ginnetti said. The office is funded only with the gas tax — which is divided evenly among the 88 counties no matter how many miles of road a county has, and license plate fees. Even though Mahoning County has nearly 500 miles of road to pave — the fifth largest in the state — Columbiana County with under 200 miles of road gets the same amount in funding, Ginnetti said.

No property tax, income tax or sales tax funds the office’s activities, Ginnetti said.

The increase in funds would allow Ginnetti to decrease the time it takes to cycle through road improvements. Now, the cycle takes about 15 years to repave each road, but with the added dollars expanding the number of projects that could be completed in a year, the cycle could get closer to the recommended seven to 10 years, so each road would get paved sooner, he said.

The money would not be spent on salaries, equipment or buildings — only on road improvements and road safety improvements, bridges and as matching funds for grants, Ginnetti said.

About half of the road improvement projects would be for township roads and the other half for county roads, Ginnetti said. Townships have laid out their priority paving projects, Ginnetti said. A tentative five-year plan is in place if the funds are approved by voters, he said, showing maps of proposed paving projects over the next five years.

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