ALLEN COUNTY — A closer look at the unofficial results of the May 8 primary precinct by precinct reveals that geography may have been a variable in the failure of a sales tax increase proposed by the Allen County Commissioners to pay for capital improvement projects.
The 30 precincts that voted in favor of the sales tax were located primarily within Lima or close to city limits in well-developed areas, such as the northern precincts of Shawnee Township.
Bluffton also contributed heavily to the pro-levy voter contingent as all three precincts located within Bluffton’s city limits voted more than 2 to 1 in favor of the sales tax increase with a higher-than-average turnout.
Precincts outs of city limits, however, largely disapproved of the increase, which aligns with some of the complaints made against the sales tax levy in the final weeks of the commissioner’s campaign to push for its approval.
Some opponents of the sales tax increase mentioned the need for the county to push more funds toward infrastructure improvements, such as roads and bridges, instead of toward major capital improvements. Since the county is largely responsible for the upkeep of roads outside of city limits, voters driving those roads on a regular basis may have been more willing to vote against the increase.
The commissioner’s capital improvement project planned to fund an additional $500,000 to roads and bridge improvements per year along with paying for the construction of the Juvenile Detention Center, adminstrative offices and a new Allen County Engineer’s building as well as updates to the Allen County Courthouse.
Opponents of the sales tax increase were also concentrated throughout southeast and northeast Lima, especially within some of the higher-population density precincts of Bath Township, some of which disapproved of the tax 2 to 1.
The final results for the sales tax was 7,636 for and 8,152 against.
Allen County Commissioners have stated that they will not put the sales tax increase on the ballot for a second time, and they are looking to move forward with aspects of the capital improvement plan without the injection of the additional $35 million the sales tax would raised over a 10-year period.
As for voter turnout, the highest turnout, at 54.4 percent, was precinct Elida B followed by Elida A in second place. With the turnout, Elida voters were able to pass a $2.8 million bond to build a new elementary school east of the bus parking lot just off the road from the current building.
The lowest turnout rates, many sitting in the single digits, were claimed primarily by Lima precincts in the southeast and central portions of the city. Some of these areas also have poverty rates above 50 percent according to U.S. Census data, which reinforces longstanding correlations between high poverty and low voter turnout rates.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.