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Politics is big in these parts, and we’ve got it covered. John Arthur Hutchison and other staff writers will offer their inside information on the events, big news and little moments of the local political scene in Lake, Geauga and eastern Cuyahoga counties.

Friday, March 4, 2011

How the process to raise sales tax works

Most branches of government are facing tough tasks putting together their budgets, and Lake County commissioners are no exception.

Due to decreased revenues, some elected county officials and department heads have had to utilize staff furloughs, announce layoffs, leave vacant positions unfilled and consider shortening office hours.

Sheriff Daniel A. Dunlap recently laid off two deputies. The Elections Board will implement furlough days, and potentially consider other cost-cutting options, because there is a $130,000 difference between what the department requests and what commissioners propose.

The reasons for the declining revenues?

Interest earnings in 2008 provided the county with $6.9 million. But rates remain at historically low levels, meaning revenue dipped to $4 million in 2009 and shrunk to $2.18 million for 2010 as higher returning investments came off the book. This revenue is projected to provide $1.25 million this year.

Collections from annual property taxes have dropped because property valuations that determine how much one’s home and land are worth declined two years ago by 10 percent in the county — and aren’t likely to rise when the triennial update is completed next year.

Sales tax revenues are the county’s biggest source of revenue, and collections have remained flat. Sales taxes generated  $14,524,182 in 2009, $14,519,064 in 2010, and is projected to be around $14.1 million this year.

The only controllable option commissioners have to increase revenue is to raise the county’s sales tax. The idea is unpopular and not one commissioners are seriously considering.

Should the commissioners ever change their mind, there’s a process they would have to follow to do so.

How it would work

Ohio law permits county commissioners to levy additional sales tax by increments of a quarter of 1 percent by adopting a resolution that generally must state the tax’s purpose and how long it would be in effect.

Two public hearings would need to be conducted before passing the resolution. The second hearing must be held not less than three days, nor more than 10 days, after the first.

In the resolution, commissioners may — but are not required to — direct the Elections Board to ask voters whether to approve the increase.
If the resolution is passed as a non-emergency measure, commissioners must pass it by at least a 2-1 vote and the question may be submitted to the Elections Board 90 days before the election.

If the resolution is adopted as an emergency measure deemed necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, it must receive a unanimous vote and it needs to state the reasons for such necessity.

Voters can use a referendum to prevent a non-emergency tax from going into effect 30 days after the resolution is passed. An emergency tax is not subject to a referendum, but voters can decide to repeal it by petition.

The petition would need to be filed at least 75 days before the general election in any year and must be signed by at least 10 percent of the voters who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election.

If a tax were to be repealed by voters, it would be effective after the current year.

Announcements, endorsements

Highland Heights Mayor Scott Coleman announced he will seek a third term in office this November.
Coleman cites support and endorsements from U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, state Sen. Tim Grendell, Mayfield Heights Mayor Greg Costabile, Mayfield Village Mayor Bruce Rinker, Gates Mills Mayor Connie White, Lyndhurst Mayor Joe Cicero, Richmond Heights Mayor Dan Ursu, Willoughby Hills Mayor Robert Weger and South Euclid Mayor Georgine Welo.

Lake County Commissioner Daniel P. Troy: Mardi Gras Party, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Holiday Inn Express LaMalfa Centre in Mentor. See Kip Molenaar.
Jamie Callender, candidate for Ohio Senate: Mardi Gras party, 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Quail Hollow Inn in Concord Township. See Jamie or Heidi Callender.

Lake Commissioner Robert E. Aufuldish: St. Patrick’s Day celebration from 5 to 7:30 p.m. March 17 at Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites LaMalfa in Mentor. See Kathie Aufuldish-Freshour or Ernie Koenig.

Willoughby Hills Councilman David M. Fiebig: Spring Fever party, 5 to 7 p.m., March 22 at Willoughby Hills Community Center. See Joyce Hribar Fiebig.

John Arthur Hutchison’s column appears Sundays in The News-Herald. View it online at
Twitter: @newsheraldjah

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