Paul Barnaby, Fulton County commissioner, stopped an effort to put a half-percent (.5%) sales tax increase on the fall ballot.
“I think the climate is wrong in Fulton County. I think we’re overtaxed as it is,” Barnaby said.
Barnaby voted against placing the sales tax increase issue before county voters during the commissioners’ Thursday, Aug. 16 meeting.
While the measure passed 2-1, Dean Genter, president of the commissioners, said he and Joe Short, county commissioner, felt they needed a unanimous vote to put the sales tax increase before the public.
“We felt if we can’t get the full support of the board, it would have been a hard sell to the public,” Genter said.
Technically, the commissioners can simply enact the tax without a vote of the people.
Also, a unanimous vote of the commissioners is not required to put a measure on the ballot.
Barnaby cited several reasons for his no vote.
He pointed out home foreclosures in the county are increasing, “going out the roof.”
He said other counties that had implemented a half-percent sales tax hike had not seen it generate as much revenue as anticipated.
He also advocated leaving the sales tax hike as a lastditch option.
“When you spend your coin and you have trouble, what have you got to fall back on?” he asked.
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
He also questioned whether the county general fund is in as bad a shape as others have suggested.
Barnaby noted the county could start 2008 with $1.9 to $2 million on hand, and with four months remaining in the year, who knows what will happen.
He also noted interest income is up; with a little luck, it could reach $1.1 million from the lowtide level of $400,000 in 2004.
“I’m just saying, what if there is a change? The stocks and bonds are holding at about a 5% rate of return if you don’t stick your head out too far,” Barnaby said.
There’s a new county insurance plan, which hasn’t yet been in place for a full year, so county officials don’t really know the results of that program. Plus, he said, there are money-saving ideas the county hasn’t tried.
For example, Barnaby said all county-owned vehicles could be put into a pool. That could perhaps control costs, he said.
Another idea that hasn’t been tried is a secretarial pool, three or four people who step in and help where needed, rather than being assigned to one office permanently.
“I don’t think we’re at the bottom of the sea yet,” Barnaby said.
Genter said given the present level of expenditure, the county general fund will survive 2007 and enter 2008 with about $2 million.
The county needs cash on hand at the end of the year, because property tax bills are due in January of the next year.
By the time the county receives and processes tax payments and then distributes the proceeds to various county funds, several weeks have passed. The county needs the $2 million to operate until property tax revenue becomes available.
While the county will make it into 2008, at the present level of spending, it would be difficult to make it into 2009.
“This board of commissioners is going to do whatever it takes to have a sufficient carryover,” Genter said.
However, he said, “The next round of cuts are going to reflect in services rendered to the people of Fulton County. We don’t want to do that,” he said.
Genter questioned some of Barnaby’s ideas, specifically the vehicle and secretarial pools. He said neither would generate a large amount of savings. Also, “secretaries” working in county offices today require specialized knowledge; it would be difficult to ask them to switch from office to office.
Genter said the Thursday vote would have given “voters of Fulton County the opportunity to say yea or nay” to the sales tax hike.
“It would allow the voters an opportunity to voice their opinion in favor of the tax increase or not,” he said.
Short said, because of a lag of about three months from the time a merchant collects the sales tax to the time it arrives in county coffers, even if voters did have a chance to approve the sales tax hike in November, the county wouldn’t see extra revenue until the middle of 2008.
What do the commissioners do now?
“Now, we drive on,” Genter said. “We’re okay to the end of 2007, at levels of expenditures we have today.”
“With no increase whatsoever,” Short said.
“We’ll make it through 2008,” Genter said.
“It will be very tight,” Short said.
“It will be very tight when we get to the first three months of 2009,” Genter said.
Fulton County Sales Tax Revenue
August, 2006 $338,043.14
August, 2007 $356,282.84
Difference ($) +$18,239.70
Difference (%) +5.39%
Difference ($) -$100,692.71
Difference (%) -3.75%
Information provided by Fulton County Commissioners office. Figures represent sales tax revenue received by Fulton County from the Ohio Department of Taxation, for Fulton County’s 1% share of revenue generated by sales taxes on goods and services in Fulton County. Monthly figure represents money received that month; year-to-date money received from Jan. 1 of that year through the month indicated. Archbold Buckeye chart.