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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.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sales tax proposal gets interesting

It came as no great surprise that Lake County commissioners decided to raise the county sales tax rate to help solve a budget crisis.

However, I had wondered if the rate was to be raised by 0.5 percent rather than 0.25 percent, exactly how commissioners would reach a bipartisan decision, but even more so, I was curious how it would be sold to the public.

The decision to lower the county’s inside millage, or non-voted property tax, to the general fund down to 1 mill from 2.1 mills was something I’m not sure many people had considered an option. Heck, I didn’t even know it was possible.

But giving property owners a sizable break on their taxes and cutting the stormwater management fee rates by 50 percent in communities that are part of the county program apparently was the balance needed for commissioners to go with a 0.5 percent increase.

For each $100,000 of property valuation, 2.1 mills generates $64.31 per year; 1 mill would generate $30.63 per year, according to the county Auditor’s Office.

As part of the stormwater program, residential parcel owners in communities that participate in Level 1 service now pay $9.60 annually — as of April 1 it would be $4.80. Residential parcel owners in communities that have Level 2 service now pay $30 annually — as of April 1 it would be $15.

With their overall proposal, commissioners decided to shift the major sources of county revenue to one that is more consumption based and less reliant on property owners.

An 0.5 percent increase in sales tax collections would bring in an estimated $14 million additional each year for a total of about $28 million annually or about half the county’s general fund budget, which in 2011 was just below $53 million.

The other major sources of revenue for the county are investment earnings, state funding and property taxes.

It’s no secret that many property owners say they are tired of being the group asked to pay more to help their local government and/or schools make up budget shortfalls.

In this proposal, the property owner gets a break and the sales tax increase will be paid by everyone who shops in the county. It doesn’t matter if you’re a renter or live outside the county.

In essence, the increased revenue will come from a larger group of people rather than concentrated on property owners.

Here’s some perspective on how much the sales tax hike would affect a consumer:

n A $20 toaster would cost 10 cents more.

n A $200 trip to the store (not counting food purchases, which are nontaxable in Ohio) would cost $1 more.

n A $1,000 appliance would cost $5 more.

n A $20,000 car would cost an extra $100.

Remember that sales tax on vehicle purchases are charged at the rate of the county in which the buyer lives, so there is no advantage to   shop by county to try to pay lower sales tax on the purchase.

Commissioners also felt there was a sufficient balance in place for funding the Lake County Stormwater Management Department and projects it conducts — at least for the next few years — to reduce the fees collected by half and still accomplish the main objectives that the program is required to do.


n Fundraiser for Ted Andrzejewski, candidate for Lake County commissioner, 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Croatian Lodge in Eastlake. See Ted or Patricia Andrzejewski.

n Campaign kickoff for Lori DiNallo, candidate for state representative District 60, 4:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Wickliffe Italian-American Club. See Vince DiNallo.

n Campaign social for John R. Hamercheck, candidate for Lake County commissioner, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 24 at Cornerstone Brewing Company in Madison Village. See Susan Hamercheck.

n Campaign kickoff for Bob Patterson, candidate for Lake County treasurer, 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 25 at Hellriegels in Painesville Township. See Sandy Patterson.

n Fundraiser for Richard Shreve, candidate for Lake County commissioner, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Jan. 28 at Mentor Beach Park. See Richard or Susie Shreve.

John Arthur Hutchison
Twitter: newsheraldjah


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