Newly formed council discusses funding sources

HOWLAND — The Trumbull County Council of Governments was formed Wednesday, and some members expressed hope county commissioners would approve an increase in the county sales tax to help fund the new collaboration between local governments.

The council was formed to help smaller townships take on larger projects by enabling the sharing of resources from all members in the council, said newly elected co-vice chair and Bazetta Trustee Tedd Webb.

About 20 communities out of the 32 in Trumbull County were represented at the meeting, where the group passed bylaws and elected officers. Representatives were there from Niles, Howland, Warren Township, Champion, Brookfield, Newton Falls, Hubbard City and Township, Farmington, West Farmington, Bloomfield, Kinsman, Mesopotamia, Vernon, Gustavus, Hartford, Liberty, Southington and Weathersfield. The Trumbull County Engineer’s Office and Trumbull County commissioners are also members.

The council requires an executive director, and the council voted to ask commissioners if their newly hired county administrator, Mike Matas, would serve in the role, said Howland Trustee James LaPolla, the council’s chairman.

“It would save us a lot of money if the commissioners agree,” LaPolla said.

The communities that joined are paying between $100 and $300 a year in dues, depending on their population.

“We won’t be able to operate on dues alone,” LaPolla said.

LaPolla and Jack Simon, coordinator of special projects with the Trumbull County Engineer’s Office, said one way to fund the council is if Trumbull County commissioners pass a sales tax increase to free up money in their budget to help fund operations. A sales tax increase is one of 19 suggestions made last year by a county budget review committee chaired by Matas.

“If they were to do that, that would be a great funding source,” Simon said. “That is one avenue we could look at.”

The sales tax rate is 6.75 percent now, and 0.25 and 0.50 percent increases have been discussed by commissioners in the past.

Simon said 50 percent of the tax would be paid by people who don’t live in Trumbull County, but come to the county to shop. LaPolla said the council will need to explore all funding options in their next few meetings.

The engineer’s office has been hoping for a council of governments, and has been preparing by getting certifications for services like asbestos inspection to offer the member communities, plus there is a lot of equipment the member communities could borrow for projects, Simon said.

“We are ready to move on this,” Simon said.

The council is still looking for a fiscal officer. Brookfield Trustee Gary Lees was appointed co-vice chair with Webb. Warren attorney Jeff Goodman was appointed legal counsel.

LaPolla said it may take about a year to get the council fully off the ground and functioning.

“A lot of people want to see this work. We need as many participants as we can to make the most impact,” LaPolla said.

Ohio law limits the ways local governments can share resources, but member communities will be able to make the most of existing resources in their communities to get things done for their constituents, LaPolla said.

“We are a small community, so this could be really helpful to us, help us save money while getting things done for our residents,” said Laura Hall, Gustavus fiscal officer.