Summit County residents to vote on sales tax addition in November

by Rachel Sluss | reporter Published:

Summit County Council adopted resolutions determining it necessary to levy an additional sales tax of .25 percent for Summit County. Council voted 9-2, allowing for voters to decide on the tax on Nov. 7.

Council members Bill Roemer and Gloria Rodgers voted against the resolutions.

Summit County and Stark County are currently tied for having the lowest sales taxes at .5 percent. After the .25 percent addition, Summit County will have a .75 percent sales tax.

If the additional tax is passed, the average Summit County taxpayer would pay less than $50 annually, and the increase would generate $20 million in the first year, County Council officials said.

Within the first five years, Council officials estimate the addition will generate $104.5 million. From this amount, $69.5 million would contribute to the county's public safety and capital needs while $35 million would fund a county-owned arena that Akron University will use.

Three Akron residents spoke as opponents at the meeting, stating they did not want to pay for a new arena for the University of Akron.

"My friends and I appreciate a tax increase for public safety purposes; however, we don't appreciate being manipulated," David Culp, Akron resident and Akron University Alumni said. "It's an insult and it's provoking."

The tax increase could potentially fund the Summit County jail with between $3.7 million and $4.5 million for staffing and capital costs in 2015. Remaining public safety needs that would be funded by the tax increase include upgrading the emergency radio system and improving 911 dispatch systems, estimated to cost $5.3 million annually. Capital projects would receive $1.2 million and additional general fund needs including employee pay raises would receive $1.2 to $2 million from the increase.
Summit County Sheriff Steve Barry said at a June 9 hearing the jail is critically understaffed and suffers from maintenance issues. He also explained the radio and dispatch systems are becoming obsolete, and there is no option but to replace the systems.
Proponents have also emphasized the need to address the public safety issues but also supported the plans to build a new basketball arena for the University of Akron downtown. The tax increase, if approved, would contribute $7 million a year to the arena.

Email: rsluss@recordpub.com

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