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Published: Thursday, 4/24/2003

Tax is touted as way to keep Hancock safe

McCOMB, Ohio - Hancock County Sheriff Michael Heldman stood before a dozen residents yesterday and explained that nearly 50 percent of the county's shoppers on any given day come from the surrounding area. That's why a proposal to raise the county's sales tax to help fund his department is a win-win situation, he said.

Facing an unprecedented budget crunch, the sheriff's office is one of several law enforcement departments that would benefit if voters approve the tax May 6.

The 0.25 percent tax, if passed, would raise about $2.5 million a year dedicated to criminal and administrative services, including the courts, prosecutor's office, and county jail.

“We're asking for your help,” he told the residents. “Help keep Hancock County safe.”

The sheriff's office and other county departments had to reduce their budgets 11 percent in January because of falling investment income and rising health-care costs, officials said. The department has lost nine positions layoffs and attrition.

The department staved off further layoffs in February when the Hancock County commissioners transferred more than $90,000 from its general fund to the sheriff's office.

But the sheriff stressed that was a temporary fix to keep his 85 employees on the payroll until the May ballot proposal.

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