Tax hike could happen by fall

Erie County commissioners agree on temporary sales tax rate change to pay for fixes, repairs to infrastucture
Andy Ouriel
Jun 28, 2013

Commissioners took steps Thursday to raise the sales tax rate.

Commissioners voted 3-0 to enact legislation that would increase the county’s sales tax rate by half a percent for a one-year period, beginning as soon as Oct. 1. This would bump the existing 6.5 percent rate to 7 percent.

The tentative increase would generate an extra $7 million in 12 months. These funds would only be used to upgrade crumbling infrastructure and rundown facilities at the county’s common pleas courthouse, the jail, the nursing home and other public venues.

For years, there has been no extra money in the commissioner’s $26 million annual operating budget to pay for these pressing and pricey projects.

Before any increase occurs, commissioners must host at least two public sessions to provide community members an opportunity to voice their opinions. Times and dates haven’t been set yet.

Erie County administrator Pete Daniel, who reports directly to commissioners, first suggested the hike.

“This is something we need to address,” Daniel said. “Our options are kind of limited. There is the sales tax (possibility) out there. We have the capabilities to (increase it) one-half percent.”

Commissioners Tom Ferrell, Bill Monaghan and Pat Shenigo all voted in support of Daniel’s proposal.

“If we don’t perform proper maintenance on the taxpayers’ facilities now, it will cost double, maybe even triple, later on,” Shenigo said.

The proposed increase would also pay off more than $3 million in existing debt on county-owned buildings.

“Paying off this debt early will eliminate more than $700,000 a year in debt payments,” Shenigo said. “This new revenue in the general fund will allow us to pay for unexpected costs, such as murder trials.”

Breakdown

Almost every time a shopper purchases a product in Erie County today, merchants and retailers apply a 6.5 percent sales tax on qualifying products. The state collects 5.5 percent, and the county keeps the remaining 1 percent.

At 1 percent, officials budgeted to receive about $14 million in 2013, the largest sum from sales tax ever produced in Erie County.

At 1.5 percent, commissioners stand to receive an extra $7 million, for a total of $21 million during a 12-month period, based on the county’s financial forecast.

“This is a one-year deal, and this is something to fix up our infrastructure,” Monaghan said. “This is not going for wages. This is not for fluff and other stuff. This is for things that we need to fix up.”

Commissioners opted to pursue raising the rate as an “emergency,” rather than asking county residents to vote on the tax hike.

Right call?

Some critics would contend commissioners are irrationally raising the sales tax rate.

A November 2012 Register story quoted commissioners as saying it’s “unlikely” the percentage would increase.

“Things have changed and are different today than when they were in November,” Shenigo said. “We recently learned the stone veneer on the courthouse is literally falling off the building and must be repaired immediately, which could cost up to $500,000.”

Commissioners combat the critics by pointing to their fiscal responsibility over the past five years, including:

•Reducing the county’s total debt from a high of $116 million in 2008 to $98 million entering 2013.
•Trimming the everyday operating budget’s expenses from $30 million in 2008 to $25 million in 2012. Elected officials and unions worked together to limit spending.
•Preventing the operating budget from creating annual deficits. A year-end shortfall hasn’t occurred since 2008, when expenses exceeded income levels by $2.6 million.

Recent cost-cutting measures include consolidating positions after some employees either left or retired. With officials choosing not to replace these jobs, the move saved taxpayers $266,000 in 2013 and beyond, based on these employees’ former and current incomes.

While some customers might gripe about the higher sale tax rate, some people may be willing to accept a temporary tax bump to reinvigorate the local economy, Monaghan said.

“You are going to provide a lot of jobs for people in Erie County with all that work we have to do,” Monaghan said. “It’s kind of like a stimulus package.”

Selling the wish list 

Erie County commissioners unveiled a list of what the extra $7 million in sales tax income would pay for. The list of items totals more than $9 million in upgrades, which means commissioners would have to prioritize the projects in the coming weeks.  
Erie County location/department Purpose
Care facility (nursing home)                      Various renovations
Care facility                                               Replace heating, ventilation and air conditioning system
Courthouse (Columbus Avenue)               Fix exterior masonry
Office building (downtown Sandusky)           Renovate building and parking garage
Jail                                                           Update exterior sealing
Jail                                                            Pave parking lots and driveways
Job and Family Services                           Replace or upgrade roof, sidewalks and parking lot
Services center (by fairgrounds)              Fix cooling tower
Services center                                       Pave parking lots and driveways
Services center                                       Update exterior sealing
Sheriff                                                     Install video recording systems in cruisers
Various                                                   Update network equipment
Various                                                   Upgrade emergency backup power systems
Source: Erie County commissioners 

Comments

SamAdams

You know, I'd be laughing right now if it weren't going to cost me money... "Temporary," LOL! Have ANY of you known a tax to be "temporary?"

The Big Dog's back

sam, this is your kind of tax. You should be elated.

SamAdams

It's a TAX. The word "elation" comes nowhere near entering into it!

That being said, yes, I'd certainly prefer a temporary tax over a forever tax. And I might be happier (not happy, but happier) if I actually believed for a second that this would be

1. Temporary;
2. Spent on, and ONLY on, those things for which it's specifically earmarked; and
3. Spent wisely.

You'll forgive me, but past history shows that the inevitable answer is

4. None of the above.

sandtown born a...

JUST IN TIME for somebody to get their annual raise !!!! Does this money ever actually make it to the needs described here? Or just another shell game to get money out of our pockets then poof it's gone. Lets build a new school, we need raises all on the taxpayers dime totally ridiculous. I personally would not buy a large ticket item in high tax cities just drive to a near by city with lower taxes the savings would be worth the cost on gas

registerer

These are never for 1 year! People get used to paying this and forget about it so it is then easy for the commissioners to make it a continual tax.

Larry

Federal Income Tax was to be a "temporary measure". I Hope someone is prepared to circulate petitions to have it repealed as soon as possible. With a little luck it will be on the November ballot.

hilltop

So, what happened to the cash flow from taxing the casinos?

Also, brace yourselves, Kasich is raising the state sales tax too.

Since when is "Install video recording systems in cruisers" crumbling infrastructure? Sounds more like technology that will need upgrades every two years.

County debt would be less if you had the motels on SR 250 connected to the new sewer line. After all, they're the reason we had to install the new sewer anyway . . . .

Close the Sandusky Courthouse and move into the new digs in Avery. There's plenty of room there now it was rennovated to twice its original size.

UJagoff

Its no wonder the economy is in shambles! They want to get every penny they can then another 1% . If you can afford to buy they want more!

J Cooper

Imagine if the City of Sandusky raised a tax without public input the outrage that would follow from this newspaper, but since its the Erie County Commissioners only a positive spin from the article. Is it a free press if its not fair?

Browndog271

You voted the 3 slickers in, remember at the polls next time

Darkhorse

Why does the county building need remodeling and the garage is included? What is the reasoning behind this expenditure? You notice the county commissioners are not allowing the voters to vote on the increase because they know it won't fly. How is it legal to circumvent the voter? Seven million increase is crazy. Where are the figures to support additional spending?

whocares

Why bring Kasich into this? Are any of the commissioners Republicans? Liberals were always better at spending other peoples money.

wetsu

Kasich is mentioned because it is accurate. Drop the labels, spending is all they any of them are adept at, regardless of party.

IT'S ME

Does the City of Sandusky get any of the Sales Tax if you buy something in the city?

J Cooper

"While some customers might gripe about the higher sale tax rate, some people may be willing to accept a temporary tax bump to reinvigorate the local economy, Monaghan said."

“You are going to provide a lot of jobs for people in Erie County with all that work we have to do,” Monaghan said. “It’s kind of like a stimulus package.”

More tax and spend government, typical higher tax politician. Government doesn't create jobs, they tax them. Remember this on election day.

samiam

to recap...the state wants to increase the sales tax from 5.5% to 5.75%, the county wants to increase their portion from 1.0% to 1.5%; so the total will go from 6.5% to 7.25%. County engineer wants to increase license plate fees by $10 or $15 per plate. The school wants a NEW levy of even more than was on the ballot in May. The health dept wants us to renew one of their 3 levies. And your health care is going to increase substantially. The only good news lately is that gas prices have come down a little, but are still 20 cents or more than in Toledo or Cleveland areas. But we know that won't last. Might as well turn our whole paycheck over to Big Brother and let Nanny Gov't take care of us. Who is John Galt?

SamAdams

If John Galt isn't us, then John Galt is dead. And so is America and the American dream. Your call.

The Big Dog's back

John Galt is just like everything else in right wing world, FICTION.

sandusky2012

why don't you just go after those whom have not paid their property taxes like you should be I bet there is millions waiting to be collected instead of making erie county residents pay the bill

Gardenman

This is all the same "old song" played over from past years. We heard it when a tax increase actually went to the voters to fund the drug task force and for jail improvements and then we got that stupid tax request to pull the State Theater out of debt they had gotten into. Some of these same clowns that voted for those things to appear on the ballot are not purposing this increase BUT NOT BY A VOTE !!! Alas, we how know how badly those issues went down to defeat at the polls too.

I can't tell you how many times I have heard we are remodeling that Common Pleas Court. It was for an additional court room, and then increased security and I remember there was no place for attorneys to meet with clients during trials and yada yada yada it goes on. Here we come again that the Common Pleas Court needs remodeling...Can't we ever get those court rooms remodeled to some level of use. No matter what happens they never seen to be happy with the end product. For the times we have remodeled those court rooms they ought ut to be a palace. Then to not be left out the Milan court had go get in to the act and get it's cut of the court room remodeling. Really how many times do we have to remodel those court rooms !!! Obviously, never for here comes another remodeling job in this 1/2 % increase.

And videos for the sheriffs cruisers,,,,,are you losing cases becaise we can't show movies of the arrest ???? if not then I see no reasone why we eed to keep up with the county next door etc who has then. Its like if Lorain County has then then by gosh we want them in Erie County cruisers too.

They only sell item missing in the story above and trust me it will be rolled out if the heat gets too much is........well most money in Erie County is spent by visitors to our community so residents won't be paying the majority it that will be the out of towners,

I find it hard to understand how Huron Township and City of Huron can run a fiscally sound operation and even have a suplus left at the end of the budget year BUT ERIE COUNTY CAN NOT. These political subdivisions have infrastructure. Last time I looked they have building with roofs, blacktop, brick on the sides of building etc. They don't seem to be asking for more tax dollars to meet needs.

Per the story above IF the commissioners are so sure the voters would support a temporary increase then lets put it on the ballot as a referendum and see what the voters say !!!

You know that will NOT HAPPEN for they know what the voters in Erie County will say and bottom line the commissioners know the way to get this tax increase is to ram it down the throats of Erie County citizens.

kURTje

The Kasich comment is relevant. That "guy" wants everybody to give "him" more. He is not a public servant.