Allen County’s proposed 0.2-percent sales tax increase is all about taking care of the county’s roads, bridges and buildings without burying the county in debt.
It raises money for much needed repair work on a “pay as you go” basis and also establishes funds for future maintenance. County commissioners call it the best option for fixing a problem that has been ignored for decades, one they say needs to be addressed now.
But make no mistake: It is a tax increase, something that should always be looked at with a degree of skepticism.
The Lima News does not endorse issues or candidates. However, we will identify key points voters should consider.
Here ’s what residents need to know when voting May 8 on Allen County’s “proposed sales and use tax” increase:
1) How does Allen County’s current sale tax compare with other Ohio counties?
Allen County’s sales tax rate is currently 6.75 percent, which along with Hancock County, is the cheapest in the region and among the lowest in the state. Cuyahoga County has the highest rate at 8 percent. Butler, Wayne and Stark counties are the cheapest at 6.5 percent. Franklin County, home of Columbus, is 7.5 percent.
2) How much additional sales tax is paid in the proposed plan?
• 2 cents for every $10 spent.
• 20 cents for every $100 spent.
• $2 for every $1,000 spent.
Note: Anyone purchasing merchandise in Allen County will pay this tax, not just Allen County residents. (an exception is automobiles, which are taxed by their home county)
3) How is it being determined which projects get funding?
The commissioners have spent the last four years working with county elected officials to identify the capital needs throughout the county. They could have explained better just how bad some of the properties are. For example, the fourth floor of the courthouse is a disaster waiting to happen structurally unless something’s done.
4) Can the funds raised be used for other perceived needs, such as salaries?
No. It is statutorily mandated the funds from this proposal are only to be spent on permanent improvements.
5) What happens if retail sales in Allen County taper off?
It is a “pay as you go” plan. So, should less money be collected, fewer repairs and maintenance work will take place. The same reduction happens when Allen County residents purchase merchandise outside of the county or via the internet.
6) When will the funds be available?
The collection will begin Oct. 1 with the first disbursement being Jan. 1, 2019.
7) How long will the tax increase be in effect?
It ends in 10 years. However, that won’t keep who ever are the commissioners at that time from selling it as a renewal, which typically happens with such issues.
8) What are the alternatives?
There are two:
• Do nothing. This option costs zilch today but plenty more tomorrow. Frankly, it’s why we’re in this mess.
• Borrow the money through bonds. By doing this, the county would be ensured it is receiving a set amount of money. However, it is basically a credit-card payment. It’s going to cost taxpayers at least $13 million more in interest payments.
9) What we liked about the campaign:
• Commissioners held more than two dozen meetings to answer questions from the public.
• A reminder from commissioners that the buildings, roads and bridges in need of repair are owned by the tax-paying residents of Allen County.
10) Parting shot:
From the commissioners: “These repairs must be completed. While we could have taken the easy path and borrowed the money to do the repairs, we chose the responsible path and least expensive way.”