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Published: Tuesday, 7/19/2005

Henry County considers increasing sales tax

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

NAPOLEON - At Holgate Lumber and Buckeye Building Solutions, where many sales are $50,000, a proposed 0.5 percent county sales tax would cost such customers an additional $250.

That's more than enough to convince many to buy building materials from competitors in surrounding counties where the sales tax is lower, Janet Tilse, a partner in both businesses told Henry County Commissioners yesterday in a public hearing on the proposed tax.

Before leaving work for the public hearing she told a customer about the proposal, only to hear: "If they do that, I'll go to Defiance County," she said.

Defiance County's sales tax, including the state's 5.5 percent, is 6.5 percent, which is the same as Henry County's. But if the Henry County commissioners would adopt the proposed increase when they vote Monday, Henry County's tax would be 7 percent, the same as Williams County's, but higher than the other six counties surrounding Henry.

However, Ms. Tilse and a few other taxpayers unhappy about the proposed increase were outnumbered two to one at yesterday's hearing by county office holders and employees who told the commissioners their budgets have no fat left to cut.

County recorder Sara Myles said the office supplies she purchases all seem to cost more and her budget for them has stayed the same.

Robin Small, director of the Henry County Senior Center, told commissioners that collecting enough money to fund its meal delivery and other services can help save government funds in the long-run.

"It's much more inexpensive for people to remain in their homes than go to a nursing home," she said.

But Larry White, a retired millwright who lives midway between Wauseon and Napoleon, said he will shop in Fulton County if Henry County raises its sales tax and challenged the commissioners to make cuts instead of adding a tax.

"You're driving business out of the county," he said. "You aren't bringing it into the county."

Commissioners said they must make changes to balance their budgets, which are affected by the rising cost of jailing inmates and coping with other social ills as well as providing health insurance and retirement benefits for county employees.

"We have to do something and since the sales tax just went down that 0.5 percent, I would think it would be less painful, Commissioner Rita Franz said, referring to the Ohio's sales tax reduction that went into effect July 1.

The proposed increase would take Henry County's tax back up to 7 percent, where it had been before half of what had been originally billed as a temporary 1 percent state sales tax increase came off the books this month.

A 0.5 percent sales tax would be expected to raise $1.1 million to $1.2 million a year by adding, for instance, $150 to the purchase price of a $30,000 vehicle and 15 cents to a $30 pair of pants.

Commissioners are to hold another public hearing at 11 a.m. Monday and vote on the sales tax immediately afterward. If they would approve it unanimously, they have said it could go into effect Oct. 1.

They've chosen to consider the sales tax under what the law calls the emergency method - one of four ways in which counties can put such a tax on the books.

Under the emergency method, commissioners must state reasons for the emergency and vote unanimously for a resolution to be effective immediately.

Such a resolution is not subject to a referendum, but unhappy citizens could use an initiative or an election to repeal at any subsequent general election.

Another method of levying such a tax would be a vote by the commissioners on a resolution that would not be effective for 30 days and would be subject to referendum. The other two options involve taking the question to voters at the polls.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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