Mahoning County voters won't see sales tax increase on May ballo - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Mahoning County voters won't see sales tax increase on May ballot

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - A surprise move, as Mahoning County Commissioners decide not to put an additional one-quarter percent sales tax increase on the May ballot. So what led to the decision?

Commissioners say it was clear after holding public hearings on the issue, and listening to what was being said around the community, that an additional tax was not a good idea, at least not at this time.

The one-quarter percent increase would have been in addition to the 1% sales tax in Mahoning County that's already in place.

Commissioners, the Sheriff and Auditor say they do not want to jeopardize the sales tax "renewal" that's already up for a vote in May.

Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino is the county's chief financial officer, "I don't think it would have passed number 1. ... And number 2, I've listened to the people. I think it's time to be accountable, and do a better job of selling the 1/2% renewal which we need."

David Ditzler, the current Chairman of the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners tells 21 News, "As we saw several years back, when it was reduced by 1/2% to a 1/2%, we lost probably $50-Million coming into the county. ... And the time that it took to recover from that."

But county leaders maintain despite their decision, the additional one-quarter percent sales tax is desperately needed because revenue from the state's local government fund and other sources have reduced the general fund by $10-Million since 2008.

The county is likely to experience a $2-Million dollar deficit this year, and a $5-Million dollar deficit next year.

The justice system that supports public safety is the largest share of the county's general fund.

Sheriff Jerry Greene is concerned that his staff and jail operations will take the brunt of any financial cuts, "one of the unfortunate things is, I know that the biggest impact is going to be on my office. You know we've done a lot of things to be pro-active and generate money, but it's clearly not enough. We're a third smaller than we've been in the past. Everybody is working harder, doing a good job. I just hate to see something like this cut the legs out from under us."

Commissioner David Ditzler says he hopes they can revisit the issue of an additional one-quarter percent sales tax in November. But county leaders would like to have some type of independent audit done to support what they've been saying all along -- that they are doing more with less, and that a one-quarter percent increase is desperately needed. Commissioner Ditzler also believes earmarking the money specifically for justice system expenses, meaning the Sheriff's Department, the courts, the prosecutors office -- may make voters more supportive, because they'll know exactly where the money is being spent.

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