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Published: Friday, 8/15/2008

Sales tax hike in Hancock County to be redone

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

FINDLAY - Just three weeks after imposing a 0.75 percent sales tax hike, Hancock County Commissioners yesterday rescinded the new tax, although only temporarily.

The board took steps to re-do the tax increase as separate 0.5 percent and 0.25 percent measures to comply with state law that governs counties' imposition of sales and use tax. That means they'll be holding another round of public hearings to discuss what commissioners say is a dire need for new revenue.

Commissioner Phil Riegle said that may be a good thing.

"Here's an opportunity for two more public hearings for people to come out who didn't come to the last ones, so in that sense this could be a positive thing," he said. "We're trying to do the right thing, and hopefully people see that and people will take the opportunity to educate themselves about things and then make their decisions after that."

Commissioner Emily Walton said the board essentially will be enacting the same tax increase.

It will generate the same amount of money - an estimated $7.25 million a year - and would be allocated in the same way: one-third for long-term flood mitigation projects in the county, one-third for general operating expenses for county government, and one-third for construction of a new court center that would in part replace offices lost to the August, 2007, flood.

The legislative glitch, though, "messes up our timeline," Dr. Walton said.

Assuming the board approves the two tax increases in September, they could not be collected until Jan. 1 and the county would not begin receiving the revenue until April.

Under the previous plan, the 0.75 percent tax would have been collected beginning Oct. 1 with revenues coming into county coffers in January.

Commissioner Ed Ingold said all of that is subject to change if a referendum is placed on the November, 2009, ballot to repeal the sales tax increase - something that was threatened at last month's hearings by opponents of the tax hike.

If a referendum is pending, the county could not collect the new tax unless the board passed the tax as an emergency measure, he said. Commissioners said they would not decide whether to impose the taxes as emergencies until after the two requisite public hearings.

The hearings were scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 4 and 10 a.m. Sept. 8, both to be held at the county engineer's conference room on Lima Avenue.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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