LIMA — The Allen County Commissioners laid out a plan for a 0.2 percent sales tax increase to be voted on this May to pay for increasing maintenance and structural costs of aging county-owned properties.
The sales tax increase would raise $3.5 million annually over a period of 10 years, which would pay for capital costs at four different buildings — a new Allen County Juvenile Detention Center, renovations to the Allen County Courthouse, a new County Engineer’s Office facility and new county administrative offices.
Allen County’s current sales tax rate is 6.75 percent, tied for the lowest in the region with Hancock County. Putnam County has a rate of 7.0 percent, while Auglaize, Hardin, Logan, Mercer, Shelby and Van Wert Counties each have a 7.25 percent rate.
During the plan’s reveal spun out during the Rotary Club of Lima’s Monday meeting, Commissioner Greg Sneary touted the commissioners’ efforts to increase efficiencies across the board.
“One thing you always have to do though is be very careful about what you’re doing, and of course, over the years, one thing we’ve done is innovation and trying to save where we can with efficiencies. And that’s happening in a number of areas over the years,” Sneary said.
But recent structural problems with many of the county’s properties, many of them older than 25 years, made it apparent that more needs to be done to prevent further costly maintenance emergencies.
“So our plan to fund all these is a sales tax increase. We have been pretty proactive with our numbers. We’ve done a lot of math. In fact, Commissioner Noonan called me Saturday night and said ‘are those numbers right?’ and I redid the numbers and realized the slide was slightly off. So we made those changes this morning.” Commissioner Jay Begg said. “The fact is a 0.2 percent increase to Allen County sales tax will collect just under $3.5 million annually, at today’s rate of economy.”
The 10-year plan would allow the county to pay for and finish each building before construction begins on the next project. The years of 2019 and 2020 would see the construction of the Allen County Juvenile Detention Center, currently ongoing and estimated to cost $7.1 million, followed by new county administrative offices, a $3.5 million project, the renovation of the courthouse costing $11 million and then a new County Engineer Office’s facility, estimated to cost $7 million, to be finished if all goes according to plan by 2029.
If any funds remained, they would be allocated to permanent improvements on the Allen County Jail, the Third District Court of Appeals and the Annex, or the old title building as well as infrastructure improvements on county roads and bridges.
Commissioners said the plan would also shuffle some of the current county departments into other facilities in order to increase budget efficiencies. All Allen County Common Pleas courtrooms, four in total, would be run out of the courthouse alongside the Allen County Clerk of Courts. The Allen County Treasurer’s, Recorder’s and Auditor’s Offices, which currently are located in the courthouse, would be moved into new administrative offices.
The current state tax rate is 5.5 percent in Ohio and 6.75 percent for Allen County. The commissioner’s tax rate would increase that number to 6.95 percent. The total combined tax rate, including state, county and transit authority is not allowed to exceed 8.5 percent.