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Published: Thursday, 7/3/2008

Sandusky County sales tax revenue tanks as gas goes up

BY CHAUNCEY ALCORN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Richard Daugerd of Parma, Ohio, and daughter Justine Shafer eat lunch at the Fremont plaza. Turnpike use is down from 2007. Richard Daugerd of Parma, Ohio, and daughter Justine Shafer eat lunch at the Fremont plaza. Turnpike use is down from 2007.
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FREMONT - Sandusky County's sales tax revenue is down partly because fewer people are driving on the Ohio Turnpike because of high gasoline prices, Bill Farrell, Sandusky County auditor, said.

Mr. Farrell said high gas prices have hurt Sandusky County more than other counties because of its reliance on revenue generated by the turnpike.

Sandusky is Ohio's only county with two turnpike service plazas, one at the east end and the other at the west end. The plazas generate revenue from motorists who buy food or souvenirs.

Nikki Bryant, 18, who works at a Cinnabon World Famous Cinnamon Rolls restaurant in one of the turnpike plazas, said business appeared to have picked up this week after being down much of the year.

Farrell Farrell
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Sean Hill, 38, of Detroit stopped at the same service plaza while en route to Washington with his wife, Sherrell.

He said the high cost of gas has limited vacation and recreation time for his family this year.

"It's affected everything, even our home travel," he said.

George Distel, executive director of the Ohio Turnpike Commission, said turnpike revenues are down 4 to 6 percent compared to this time last year. He partly attributes that to fewer tractor-trailers on the highway.

"I think we're starting to expe-rience a diversion of truck traffic to move goods to where they're more dependent on [railroads]," he said.

Sandusky County collected about $2,927,000 in sales tax revenue from January, 2006, through June, 2006. During that same six-month period, the figure was $2,916,704 in 2007 and $2,882,885 this year.

Purchases by turnpike patrons like Faith Turnbaugh and Jim Schumacher of Altoona, Pa., mean revenue for local governments.
Purchases by turnpike patrons like Faith Turnbaugh and Jim Schumacher of Altoona, Pa., mean revenue for local governments.
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A continued decline could make it harder for county employees to get wage increases next year, Mr. Farrell said.

County Commissioner Dan Liskai said layoffs could occur if overtime exceeds budgeted limits in certain departments, including law enforcement.

"There's no extra money," he said. "We don't have an extra pot of money to draw from."

Commissioner Terry Thatcher said there are ways to save money without cutting jobs.

Mr. Distel said it would help if Ohio vacationers spend more money in their own state this summer, as some economists predict will happen.

"I'm hoping Ohioans will stay in Ohio and use the turnpike over the holiday weekend to move over the north end of Ohio," he said.

Jim Metzger, general manager at the Kalahari Resorts waterpark in Sandusky, said that resort's attendance is up.

"We're having a very solid year in terms of our performance," he said. "We think people that used to travel nationally are now traveling locally and the international traveler is reducing their travel to national travel now. I think everyone has a chance to rediscover what Ohio has in terms of our great tourism opportunities."

Mr. Thatcher said Sandusky County laid off 12 employees in 2002.

The county employs about 620 people on a full-time basis.

Contact Chauncey Alcorn at: calcorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6168.



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