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Published: Saturday, 10/1/2005

Henry County half-cent sales tax hike begins

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

NAPOLEON - Almost everything for sale in Henry County costs slightly more today than it did yesterday.

A 0.5 percent sales tax hike that the Henry County commissioners unanimously enacted in July went into effect at 12:01 this morning, taking the total sales tax rate in the county to 7 percent.

An attempt to repeal the tax will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot. But even if it is successful, the tax will stay in effect until April 1. That's because the Ohio Department of Taxation changes sales taxes only quarterly, and April 1 is the beginning of the first quarter that is at least 60 days after the November election results will be certified.

The commissioners are guaranteed to collect the new sales tax for at least six months, during which time it is expected to generate an extra $550,000 to $600,000 for the county.

Commissioners say 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 new tax will add $150 to the purchase price of a $30,000 vehicle for Henry County residents, whether they buy locally or elsewhere. The tax will affect everyone shopping in Henry County stores, no matter where they live. For a $30 pair of pants, the new tax will add an extra 15 cents to the bill. Henry County is one of seven Ohio counties with a new tax rate today, according to a letter that state tax officials sent to 340,000 businesses in the state in September.

All are collecting an extra half percent. Like Henry County, Clinton County northeast of Cincinnati, Darke County in west central Ohio, and Wyandot County in northwest Ohio jump to a total sales tax rate of 7 percent. Franklin County, encompassing Columbus, goes to 6.75 percent. In Henry County, however, the repeal question has county leaders organizing a campaign to keep the tax on the books just as it goes into effect. The repeal effort was led by former county commissioner Jim Junge, along with retirees Bill Moden, Sr., and Larry White, who collected more than the 1,506 signatures needed to put the repeal on the ballot. Their committee, called Give Us a Voice, was organized primarily because Mr. Junge felt that the voters should decide a tax increase, not the commissioners, he said.

He predicts voters will repeal the tax, but said results could be tight if county employees successfully convince their families and friends to vote to keep the tax in place. The commissioners plan to distribute weekly news releases and send leaders to meetings to explain the cuts being considered if the tax would be repealed.

Commissioners are mulling 25 percent cuts to the funds they provide to the county sheriff, emergency medical services, Ohio State University Extension, Soil and Water Conservation District, Community Improvement Corp., airport, fair, planning commission, and other services, Steve Baden, president of the commissioners, said. He said several people who say they'll stand by the commissioners, and he knows of others who typically vote no on any tax. But he predicts the biggest group is mulling the issue.

"And that middle group is going to determine the outcome of the election," he said.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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