Make voices known on tax increase

It’s just human nature: the more money you have, the more you spend.

That seemed to be the message being relayed to Trumbull County commissioners by dozens of constituents who attended Monday evening’s public hearing to discuss the possibility of increasing Trumbull County’s sales tax by a quarter percent.

Commissioners have said they plan to use the additional $6 million a year that would be generated by the tax increase to fund the county’s justice system that is, the sheriff’s, prosecutor’s and coroner’s offices, the county court system as well as adult and juvenile jails. This year, these departments will account for 58 percent of the county’s nearly $45 million budget.

Presentations made by the Trumbull County auditor, sheriff, coroner and other county officials on Monday outlined specifics of the revenue and spending, and showed significant decreases in the amount of money the county receives from the state.

But what was missing were the answers to two basic questions asked by those in the audience: Why not request a state performance audit that could point out new ways to save money and why not allow the taxpayers vote on the possible sales tax increase.

The commissioners began publicly discussing the possibility of increasing the Trumbull County sales tax in early February. If approved, shoppers in Trumbull County would pay 7 percent on their purchases, up a quarter percent from the current 6.75 percent sales tax. Of that, the county would received 1.25 percent, and the state would receive the rest.

And if an unrelated statewide sales tax increase proposed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich also is approved, then the sales tax ultimately could reach 7.5 percent or higher.

Monday was the second of two public hearings on the matter that are required before commissioners may impose a sales tax levy without a vote of the people. To impose it, commissioners were obligated to host two public hearings before voting. Collections would begin the first day of the calendar quarter at least 65 days after commissioners cast their votes. That means if commissioners plan to see the increased sales tax collections begin by July 1, they must approve it by the end of this week.

If that were to occur, the only way the levy collections could be stopped is by a repeal referendum vote of the electorate in the November election.

We have opposed implementation of the sales tax increases proposed by both the state and the county, and we have urged the public to take part in the two public hearings to make their opinions known. Residents responded with high turnouts at both hearings.

Now we urge residents to turn out at this week’s Trumbull County commissioners meeting, 10:30 a.m. Wednesday on the fifth floor of the Trumbull County Administration Building, to send a message to commissioners who could vote at that meeting to impose the tax.

And ultimately, we urge the Trumbull County commissioners to avoid levying the tax increase without a referendum vote of the people.

Rather, they should make their case to their constituents and let the voters make the final decision.