April 21, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain County voters reject sales tax hike

ELYRIA — For the fourth time since 2007, Lorain County voters have shot down a sales tax hike.

The county commissioners had hoped this time would be different, offering to roll back 1.4 mills of inside millage, essentially an unvoted property tax, if voters approved raising the sales tax by 0.5 percent for the next three years. Had it passed, the county would have brought in roughly $8.3 million more annually.

But the effort took a drubbing, with 36,788 voters, or 66 percent, casting ballots against the measure. According to unofficial election returns from the county Board of Elections, the increase had the support of 18,975 voters, or 34 percent.

The commissioners had argued that the increase was necessary to deal with a projected budget deficit of between $4 million and $6 million next year. They also had hoped to use the money to fund capital improvements, including updating the fleet of cruisers for sheriff’s deputies, that have been delayed by the county’s recent budget woes.

Commissioners Ted Kalo and Tom Williams said the effort to pass the tax hike was hampered by revelations that former county Auditor Mark Stewart was paid out $18,080 in unused sick time after returning to work for four hours in April for county Auditor Craig Snodgrass.

Although the county later determined that Stewart was only entitled to $4,520 of that money and the former auditor agreed to return the money he shouldn’t have received, Kalo and Williams said the damage was done.

“It’s no surprise,” Williams said. “We kind of knew going into it with everything that happened with Craig Snodgrass paying out that money to a former official that would hurt us.”

Kalo said that the commissioners had originally planned to hold a fundraiser and mount a small campaign to convince voters to pass the tax hike, but they scrapped the plan after the scandal surrounding Stewart’s payout.

“It cast a bad light on county government and it hampered our ability to raise dollars,” Kalo said.

Now that the voters have rejected the levy, Kalo and Williams said they will have to make hard decisions about where to cut.

“We either create revenues or reduce costs,” Williams said.

Kalo estimated that the commissioners will need to slash between $2.5 million and $3 million next year to balance the budget. That’s less than the commissioners had feared, but he said that’s only because current sales tax collections are up slightly and the county has pulled back on some expenditures this year.

There’s also another option.

The commissioners could raise the sales tax rate on their own as an emergency, although Williams said he won’t vote for that.

Kalo and Commissioner Lori Kokoski also could theoretically put the issue on without Williams, although that would automatically send it to the polls.

But Kalo said he doesn’t think only two commissioners should be putting on a sales tax while another stands back and votes against it.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

  • http://comradealan.com/ Alan Pugh

    Perhaps they would have had more luck if it weren’t so obvious what they were trying to accomplish… lowering taxes for homeowners while raising taxes for those who already can’t afford to own a home. Shifting the tax burden to people who are already overburdened is bad policy any way you look at it.

    • Bill Love

      So because I work my butt off to better my self anselfd buy a house I should have to support all the scum who don’t want to work hard and better them. Selfs it didn’t pass because it would have been a fair tax that everyone would have paid but 90% of lorain county want the home owner to take care of them

      • http://comradealan.com/ Alan Pugh

        This is a terrible, overused, and invalid response. “I worked harder so I should have to pay LESS taxes.” As a homeowner myself, I understand the basic math of progressive taxation:

        A person making 19,000 a year is already living in poverty, a person making 60,000 a year is not. One of those two has the means and the responsibility as a successful member of society to contribute more to the society that created their success.

        If you’re going to pretend you’ve never used the education system, the highway system, mail, regulated energy, or safely inspected food, I think most of us know better. In a civil society, we have both rights and responsibilities, and we bear them according to our needs and abilities.

  • levtrotsky

    Still no word on the Grand Jury looking into Mark Stewarts theft of funds for his personal benefit. What say you Mr. Will?

  • Bill

    To think that the 2 K’s would even think about shoving an emergency hike down our throats again only goes to show their arrogance and seemingly invincibility at the polls when it comes time for their re-election despite the horrible leaders they have proven to be. Well there is a strong basis for that because even if they try with the emergency hike again the sheep of Lorain County will once again vote for the D behind the name instead of the best person for the job.

  • James Coleman

    No Tax Increases, Let this reporter tell us the voters how much our representatives make in yearly income, including income generated by outside sources. Save us taxpayers even more money by cutting back on the available funds they use at their discretion to have parties, send cronies flowers etc at taxpayer expense! Let’s see better journalistic reporting editors and publishers.
    You have the responsibility to do so.

  • GreatRedeemer

    Perhaps start cutting at the Lorain County Airport, cant they pump their own gas like other county airports. Gee whiz. There are millions to be saved if you cut the sick pay policy , have county employees pay for parking, do you really need all of those cell phones ? How about loans . any development loans delinquent that can be collected, go to the courthouse get a judgment attach their assets and return the money to the taxpayers. Medical, cut out part timers medical , raise the rates for the county employees, give them a HSA. That’s what we in the private sector are doing not raising our prices. There is plenty of low hanging fruit if you just had the political courage to do it.