July 24, 2014

Elyria
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Group urges ‘no’ vote on sales tax issue

ELYRIA — Taxes are high enough and county commissioners haven’t justified the   0.25 percent sales tax increase they passed in March, say activists who met Saturday on Ely Square.

The group, called the Local Liberty Committee, spent the day erecting orange signs near highways and busy city streets, urging voters to “Vote No” on Issue 25.

They hope that by doing so, the sales tax hire will be repealed, said Amherst City Councilman Nick Brusky, who helped to lead the petition drive that got the sales tax increase placed on the ballot.

“It’s important to defeat this tax because the commissioners haven’t done a good job of telling us how they’re going to spend the money,” he said.

Commissioners Ted Kalo, Lori Kokoski, and Betty Blair adopted the tax — which amounts to 25 cents on every $100 purchase — in March.

The increase aims to collect an extra $7.4 million a year and offset $3.5 million in funding cuts from the state. It might also be the key to avoiding a county budget shortfall of about $8.6 million next year, according to commissioners.

But Brusky and his supporters said Saturday that voters are fed up with taxes and are expecting a big win when the polls close Tuesday night.

Kokoski and Kalo last week said that even if voters overturn the increase, they will try to put it back on the books next year. That statement energized the opposition Saturday.

“There’s a certain amount of arrogance here,” said Local Liberty Committee Treasurer Jason Sobiski, a city council candidate in Amherst. “They’re thumbing their noses at us and saying they’re going to do what they want, no matter what the voters decide.”

Avon Lake City Councilman Marty O’Donnell and LLC member Garry Seman said they are angry that the commissioners want to raise taxes at the same time that they have cut funding to law enforcement.

But Kalo has said he wants to use the sales tax money to help police by possibly expanding the overcrowded county jail.
The commissioners could spend $600,000 a year to rent mobile housing units for prisoners, or spend as much as $800,000 to build  a pole-barn-style facility, he said.

Another $400,000 could be set aside to hire more prison employees, Kalo has said.

A new jail could cost between $50 million and $60 million, and Kalo said he would likely favor another sales tax increase to support construction in 2009 or 2010.

Contact Jason Hawk at 653-6264 or jhawk@chroniclet.com.