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Published: Wednesday, 8/10/2005

Henry County group seeks ballot repeal of sales tax

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

NAPOLEON - Henry County voters might get a chance to cast a ballot on the county's new 0.5 percent sales tax after all.

Jim Junge, who was a Henry County commissioner in the 1980s and mayor of Holgate in recent years, is leading an effort to put an initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot that, if approved, would revoke the tax that commissioners enacted as an emergency measure two weeks ago.

His committee, called Give Us A Voice, would need 1,506 signatures of registered voters by Aug. 25. If it gets those, Henry County will have its first county-wide initiative repeal in at least 25 years, according to the county board of elections.

"People who are on this committee all have different ideas from 'I think we should vote on it' to 'I don't think they need it'," Mr. Junge said of the 10 people who are circulating petitions with him.

Late yesterday afternoon, he said he collected at least 100 signatures himself and had not been turned down by anyone he asked.

The committee's big push will be at the Henry County Fair, which starts Friday.

"Anyone who's a registered voter at the fair, I'm going to find them," said Mr. Junge, a manager of the Sears Auto Center in Defiance.

The committee needs 1,506 signatures because that is 10 percent of the registered voters who cast a ballot in the gubernatorial election in 2002. Henry County has 19,673 registered voters.

Mr. Junge told the commissioners during a public hearing July 25 before they unanimously approved the new tax that he thought any tax should go to the ballot, and he might try to put it on himself if they would not.

Commissioner Rita Franz said yesterday that she has fielded questions, but no complaints about the tax since it was approved.

"I wouldn't have put the tax on if it wasn't necessary," she said. "There is no fat in our offices."

The tax, which is expected to raise $1.1 million to $1.2 million a year, takes effect Oct. 1. It will take Henry County's total sales tax to 7 percent, making it the highest of all but one of its surrounding counties.

The commissioners could have gone to the polls with the sales tax, but decided instead to consider it under what state law provides as an "emergency" approval method.

That method - one of four ways in which counties can put such a tax on the books - requires commissioners to state reasons for the emergency and vote unanimously. Such a resolution is not subject to a referendum, but unhappy citizens can use an initiative to repeal it at any subsequent general election.

Commissioners have said the county needs more revenue to balance its budget, which is saddled with rising costs for health insurance and retirement expenses for its employees and jail and court expenses for criminals.

The 0.5 percent sales tax will add $150 to the purchase price of a $30,000 vehicle and 15 cents to a $30 pair of pants.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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