Sales Tax Decision This Week
Fulton County Commissioners will decide this week whether to ask county voters to increase the county sales tax by one-half (.5) percent.
That's what the commissioners told the German Township Trustees, at a Monday night, Aug. 13 meeting.
The next commissioner meeting is tomorrow, Thursday, Aug. 16, to discuss whether the sales tax will go before Fulton County voters. The ballot question, with the appropriate language, must be filed by 4 pm Thursday, Aug. 23 with the Fulton County Board of Elections.
Dean Genter, commissioner president, said it will take time to prepare the documents and file them with the Board of Elections.
Commissioners probably will make a decision at the Thursday meeting.
In an earlier interview, Genter said the commissioners had made about $150,000 in cuts to the general fund budget.
The general fund pays for such things as the sheriff department, the county's share to operate the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio, county courts, and county offices such as auditor, recorder, etc.
As examples of where cuts were made, Genter said, the county economic development office was reduced from two staff members to one.
The county no longer has a grant coordinator, and they have not filled a receptionist opening.
So far, no one has been laid off. As people leave jobs, commissions aren't hiring replacements.
Genter said county revenue is not keeping up with inflation, and the county sales tax is down by about $120,000.
When cuts and sales tax shortfalls are calculated, the c ounty has about $30,000.
Good Shape- For Now
Commissioners strive to end the year with a carryover balance.
A carryover balance is required because the county doesn't receive revenue from property taxes until taxes are collected and disbursed in March. The carryover balance allows the county to continue operating until property tax funds come in.
County officials try for $2 million in carryover funds.
"We would have a real problem at $1.5 million."
Genter said Fulton County will end 2007 in good shape, even if sales tax revenue is off $200,000.
The question is 2008. Will the county have enough carryover to continue operations in areas covered by the general fund?
Joe Short, commissioner, said there are several questions that need answered in connection with a sales tax hike.
One is, should the commissioners put the question before voters in the fall, while the fi- nancial picture is still on the positive side, or wait until the county is in crisis, to ask for a sales tax increase?
"There is a storm looming.
"Do we wait until we have nowhere else to go, or do we be proactive?" Short said.
"In Archbold, voters (in the Archbold Area School levy issues) said, 'Why not let us know ahead of time, and go for smaller levies?'" Short said. Genter said the sales tax is the fairest tax, because those who have resources to purchase goods and services pay the tax.
Mari Yoder, fiscal officer of the trustees, asked how a sales tax hike might impact auto dealers.
Genter said if a person travels out of the county to purchase an automobile, they still pay the tax to their county of residence; so there is no advantage to traveling out of the county to buy.
Henry and Williams counties charge 7% sales tax. Lucas County charges 6.75%.
Defiance County is equal to Fulton County's current tax rate of 6.5%, but, Genter said, Defiance has several "big box" retailers, which generate suffi- cient sales tax revenue.
Another question the commissioners need to answer: what if voters turn down the sales tax increase?
"Services would definitely be impacted," Short said.
Genter said the county is required to fund some programs and services. Those that are not mandated could be cut.
Examples of possible cuts include the county share of the Ohio State University Extension Service, Soil and Water Conservation District, County Airport, and Sheriff Department road patrol.
"I would hate to make further cuts," Genter said in the earlier interview.
An alternative would be a group of small property taxes for each operation or service, said Short and Paul Barnaby, commissioners.
Genter said, "No commissioner wants to tax residents any more.
"We'll plead our case to the voters."- David Pugh
Fulton County Sales Tax Revenue