The Sandusky County commissioners used a portion of a recent meeting to discuss possibly seeking renewal of a 0.25 percent sales tax that is scheduled to expire in October.
The commissioners met with Bill Farrell, county auditor, and, according to minutes of their meeting, are contemplating making a decision in the next couple of months.
The 0.25 percent is part of a total 1.5 percent sales tax the county levies and is collected along with a 5.5 percent state tax.
According to the Ohio Department of Taxation, the 1.5 percent tax generated about $9.8 million county-wide in 2012, including $777,949 in December.
In 2011, the tax generated about $9.63 million.
What’s happening in Columbus may have an impact on the commissioners’ decision as the state legislature considers the biennium budget submitted by Gov. John Kasich. It includes a provision to reduce sales tax rates but to also broaden the tax base primarily by levying the tax on hitherto untaxed professional services.
The County Commissioners Association of Ohio supports the governor’s initiative to broaden the tax base, noting in a policy statement Joe Testa, state tax commissioner, testified before the House Finance and Appropriations Committee how the state economy has changed since 1935 – when the state first adopted a sales tax.
He told the committee Ohioans now purchase more services than they do goods and taxing a broader range of services acknowledges how the economy has changed.
While the CCAO statement supports broadening the base, it says the proposed reductions in rates by the state is “contrary to the principle of local control and reduces the long term ability of counties to balance their budgets.”
The CCAO is even more adamant in its opposition to a proposed three-year moratorium on any increase in a county sales tax – set to begin on July 1 of this year and ending June 30, 2016 – if HB is approved as submitted by the governor.
“This restriction on a county increasing its sales tax rate during this period is not acceptable,” the CCAO statement says.
During the moratorium, the county rates would be reduced from the rate in effect on April 1, 2013.
The original reductions would go into effect in September. Also, the current state tax rate of 5.5 percent would drop to 5 percent at that time.
The board of commissioners in Ottawa County voted in February to renew a 0.25 percent sales tax and are now also waiting to see what happens with the proposed state budget.
With the renewal, the total county and state sales tax is 6.75 percent.
Ottawa County commissioners first introduced the tax as an emergency three years ago to help a budget hit hard by a bad economy, decreasing house values and state aid cuts.
The tax has brought in about $3 million over the course of its life, Dennis Jensen, county administrator, said.
However, the renewed tax is a continuing, or a permanent tax, while it previously had a three-year term.
It’s approval was not unanimous. Commissioner Steve Arndt voted no while his peers, Jim Sass and JoEllen Regal, voted to approve it.
Arndt contended a permanent tax should be placed before voters.