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Summit County Council on Monday, Aug. 4 voted unanimously to remove the proposed University of Akron arena from a proposed sales tax increase. Instead, the additional 0.25 percent sales and use tax which voters are being asked to approve on the Nov. 4 ballot will be reserved for public safety, criminal justice and capital needs.
The new resolutions approved Aug. 4 will also limit the length of the tax to 10 years, rather than the previously proposed permanent tax.
"Since the adoption of the previous resolutions, the public has informed us that there is not sufficient support among the voters to pass a sales tax issue that includes the arena," said Summit County Executive Russ Pry on July 31. "As a result, we feel it is best to remove the arena project from this issue and instead focus solely on the county's public safety and capital needs."
Under the newly approved resolutions, the additional 0.25 percent sales and use tax would generate an estimated $227 million over the 10-year period.
Of that, $102.5 million will go to fund the operation and maintenance of the county jail - an amount that should be sufficient to fund shortfalls at the jail for the next 20 years.
An estimated $68 million will be set aside for replacing the county's 800 MHz emergency radio system, upgrading and consolidating the county's 911 dispatch system and county-owned facility repairs, maintenance and improvements.
The balance of $57 million will go to the county's general fund, of which, 70 percent is spent on public safety and criminal justice functions of the county.
Adam Miller, founder of the group Coalition Against the Sales Tax Increase, said “Our victory on this issue shows us that well-organized, grass-roots, citizen-led efforts of courage, integrity, and factual messaging can make a difference … we realize this was a victory for all the citizens of Summit County, including our county sheriff. We supported the safety forces aspect of this issue, and we did not approve of the way our elected officials (except for Bill Roemer and Gloria Rodgers) undermined our safety forces by supporting the past proposal.”
Ken Burkins, one of the founders of a second opposition group called Defeat the Arena Tax, said his contingent was "elated" that county officials "decided to withdraw the arena portion of the increased county sales tax initiative." Burkins noted that his group will now disband because its opposition was focused solely on the arena being funded by the potential tax hike.