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Published: Monday, 4/24/2006

Voters in region to face slew of issues, candidates on May 2 ballots

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

FINDLAY - Steve Oman figured his days in the county commissioner's office were over when he was defeated in his 2004 re-election bid.

But Hancock County's ongoing financial challenges have prompted Mr. Oman and two other Republicans to run May 2 for the commission seat being vacated by David Spahr at the end of the year.

Political newcomer Phillip Riegle, 28, of Delaware Township is an attorney and assistant prosecutor in Hardin County. Roger Bower, 47, an Eagle Township trustee for 22 years, is a farmer and maintenance manager at Hancor in Findlay.

Mr. Oman, 56, a farmer from Eagle Township who served two terms as commissioner, said he does not think the county needs to increase its sales tax but to live within its means. "I'm a firm believer that if you give government money, they'll spend it," he said.

Mr. Oman said he wants to rebuild relationships the county had with townships and agricul-tural agencies like the Soil and Water Conservation District, whose budget was cut by the county this year.

His opponents said they need to review the county's budget before determining whether a sales tax increase is needed. Although commissioners may impose such an increase, both agreed it should be up to county voters.

Mr. Bower said his priority would be working together with the other two commissioners and regaining the public trust.

"There needs to be good cohesive leadership. That doesn't mean we have to agree on everything, but you speak as a board," Mr. Bower said.

Mr. Riegle said his legal background would give him an advantage in the commissioners' office.

"Sixty percent of our tax dollars go to law enforcement in one form or another," he said. "Having someone understand where that 60 percent is going [who also] can make sure we're spending our dollars wisely while supporting law enforcement - that's a big difference between my opponents and me."

Hancock County voters also will decide whether to retain County Auditor Charity Rauschenberg, a Republican who was appointed to the job in 2004 when former Auditor Tony Iriti became mayor of Findlay. The Marion Township resident is being challenged by John T. Sparks of Van Buren Township, who has not previously held public office.

Mr. Sparks, an executive district director with a school fund-raising firm called America's Lemonade Stand, said he has a bachelor's degree in social science but is experienced in budgets, financial forecasts, managing employees, and working with people.

Mr. Sparks said he believes county commissioners need to get more accurate revenue forecasts from the auditor than they've received in recent years so that they can make intelligent spending decisions.

Ms. Rauschenberg, a certified public accountant with a bachelor's degree in accounting, said her education, coupled with her 12 years of employment in the county auditor's office, are a plus considering the tax changes Ohio counties are facing.

"I won't be slowed down by learning the job during these challenging times," she said.

Findlay City Schools are asking voters to approve an additional 2.5-mill permanent improvement levy that is expected to generate about $1.85 million a year for a continuing period. Proceeds from the levy, which would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $77 a year, would be used to for building maintenance, renovation, school bus purchases, and technology improvements.

Arcadia Local Schools voters are being asked to renew a 4.4-mill, three-year operating levy that has been in place since 1982. The levy, which generates $305,000 annually, costs the owner of a $100,000 home $135 a year.

Hancock and Allen County residents who live in the Bluffton school district also will vote on a 0.6-mill replacement and 0.4-mill additional operating levy for the Bluffton Public Library. The combined 1-mill tax would generate an estimated $121,268 a year for 10 years and would cost the owner of a $100,000 house $35 a year.

Also in Allen County, voters will decide two countywide tax issues: a 0.5-mill, five-year replacement levy for Allen County Children's Services and a 0.5-mill, five-year replacement for Allen County Elderly Citizens Services.

In Hardin County, incumbent Commissioner Jerry Cross of Kenton is being challenged by Thomas Wilcox, Jr., of Kenton in the Republican primary. No Democrats are on the ballot.

Kenton City Schools have an additional 0.75 percent income tax on the ballot that would generate just under $1.2 million a year for a continuing period.

In Putnam County, incumbent County Commissioner Tom Price of Fort Jennings is being challenged by Travis Jerwers of Kalida and Harold Kahle of Cloverdale in the Republican primary. The winner will face Democrat John Love of Ottawa in November.

Pandora-Gilboa Local Schools are asking for a new 1 percent income tax that would generate about $600,000 per year for five years. The request follows two unsuccessful levy bids - a property tax last May and a 1 percent continuing income tax in November.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-353-5972.



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