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Published: Thursday, 6/24/2010

Ottawa Co. sales-tax hike goes to 6.75%


PORT CLINTON - Purchases made in Ottawa County will be taxed an extra 0.25 percent beginning July 1.

The three-year tax hike will put the county's sales tax rate at 6.75 percent, the same as Lucas County's.

Ottawa County Commissioner Steve Arndt said the expected $1.2 million increase in revenue should help the county maintain current services while rebuilding its carryover balance.

"This was not to restore the cuts we had made already but to preserve the core services and build our reserves to address what kind of shortfall the state will have in the next biennial budget," he said. "This gives us some breathing room."

Commissioners held three public hearings earlier this year - one more than required - to outline the county's financial situation and make its case for a short-term sales tax increase. They OK'd it in March.

Mr. Arndt said a sales-tax hike seemed like the fairest way to increase county revenue in part because the county only has about 40,000 year-round residents. Its population swells to 100,000 in the summer, 250,000 on weekends.

Although many of its seasonal visitors do not pay property taxes, they can be a drain on county services, including law enforcement and courts, Mr. Arndt said.

Currently, sales taxes account for about 37 percent, or $4.8 million, of Ottawa County's $14.7 million general revenue fund.

Mr. Arndt said Ottawa County must maintain a carryover balance of at least 15 percent to maintain its bond rating, but commissioners prefer to keep the balance closer to 30 percent to cover unforeseen expenses.

"We just felt this was the appropriate thing to do to stabilize things and properly assess what the new environment will be," he said.

Lucas and Sandusky counties have sales tax rates of 6.75 percent, Wood and Hancock counties are at 6.5 percent. Fulton, Henry, Seneca, and Huron counties have the highest in northwest Ohio at 7 percent.

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