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Medina County commissioners seeking sales tax hike

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MEDINA — Medina County commissioners will go before voters May 8 for another try at increasing the county’s sales tax.

In November, a “legal technicality” in the filing process prevented the commissioners from putting a 0.25-percent increase on the ballot.

They will try again, this time with a 0.20-percent increase in the May primary election. That would generate an additional $5,258,800, according to figures released by County Administrator Scott Miller.

The tax increase will support criminal justice services.

“Our courts and sheriff’s department is a significant portion of our budget,” Miller said at the commissioners meeting Tuesday.

He said the combined yearly expenses for the Medina County court system and sheriff’s office is $25,445,278, which is 63.25 percent of the county’s general fund expenses.

The court budget alone for 2017 was $5,533,220. That covers costs of common pleas, juvenile court, probate court, Wadsworth Municipal Court and Medina Municipal Court, among other departments. The judges in those courts set their own budgets.

“The recommendation is to put on a 0.20 percent tax, which would almost cover the cost of the courts and some maintenance,” Miller said.

If the sales tax increase is successful, commissioners’ thinking is that it would free up money in the general fund.

“It allows us to put money toward our capital improvements and maintenance, which we’ve been lacking the last couple of years,” Miller said.

Commissioner Pat Geissman wants to apply the money toward the courthouse project that the county has put on the back burner for lack of funds.

“That’s so important,” she said. “We’ve been putting Band-Aids on them for some time.”

The current sales tax in the county is 6.75 percent, among the lowest in the state. The increase would cost consumers an additional 20 cents per $100 spent.

Two public hearings are required before commissioners can adopt a resolution to place the sales tax levy on the ballot. They will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 9 and 9 a.m. Jan. 16. Both will be held in Room 201 in the Medina County Administration Building.

If the levy passes, Miller said it would take effect Oct. 1, 2018.

“We need to get it passed,” Geissman said. “We need to take care of our buildings. We’ve been putting it off. We need to take care of the opioid crisis.”

Commissioners said both the Medina County Office for Older Adults and Medina County Children’s Services have asked for more money next year. If the sales tax passes, more money might be available from the general fund for those offices.

Geissman said a levy committee needs to be formed in the near future to get information out on the sales tax.

Last July when commissioners advertised the two public hearings on the issue, a section of the Ohio Revised Code was incorrectly referenced that covers the sales tax for county schools.

The 0.25 percent sales tax increase was not permitted on the ballot.

This story has been edited to reflect the following correction: The tax increase would represent an additional 20 cents per $100 spent.

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.


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