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The Suburbanite
  • Passage of sales tax a victory for Stark County Jail

  • Unofficial election results had Stark County voters approving the eight year, 0.5 percent sales tax for county criminal justice services that will help avoid massive layoffs at the Stark County Sheriff’s Office and keep hundreds of criminals behind bars.

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  • Police won’t be handing out any get-out-of-jail-free cards to criminals after all.
    Unofficial election results had Stark County voters approving the eight year, 0.5 percent sales tax for county criminal justice services that will help avoid massive layoffs at the Stark County Sheriff’s Office and keep hundreds of criminals behind bars.
    With all precincts counted, 56 percent of voters supported the tax — Issue 29 — unofficial results show.
    The vote total was 66,279 for the tax and 52,280 against.
    Beginning April 1, the county’s total sales and use tax will increase from 5.75 percent to 6.25 percent and shoppers will pay an additional 50 cents for every $100 they spend on taxable purchases. Groceries and prescriptions are not taxed.
    Stark County, which is the only county in Ohio without a sales tax to fund county operations, still will have the lowest sales tax in Ohio, but will share the distinction with four other counties.
    SUPPORT
    Christopher Altland of Canton said he supported the tax to maintain public safety.
    “The jail sits right over there and I would rather have them there than here,” Altland said.
    Tom Beiter of Canton agreed, saying, “I don’t have a problem with paying taxes for things we need to have to live.”
    The Stark County Sheriff’s Office served as the centerpiece for the campaign to approve the tax, as every law enforcement agency depends on the county jail to books its prisoners. Supporters emphasized how the jail, with an inmate capacity of 501, would house only 122 of the county’s most violent offenders if the sales tax failed because the sheriff expected to lay off roughly 70 more employees. The campaign had to combat the national anti-tax, anti-government sentiment and the fallout from the multimillion-dollar theft in the Stark County Treasurer’s Office.
    CUTS STILL COMING
    Due to delays built in to state law, the county won’t begin to collect the additional sales tax revenue until July. That means commissioners will collect only six months worth of tax revenue next year and still will have less revenue to distribute to general-fund departments than what they doled out this year.
    Sheriff Timothy Swanson said the half-year collection means that he likely will reopen only 100 of the inmate beds that have been closed since December and open the remaining 100 in 2013.
    “I’m just glad that I don’t have to do any additional layoffs come December,” Swanson said. “That’s a very big relief.”
    Still, not all county offices will be spared from the budget ax next year.
    Noncriminal justice offices, such as the auditor, treasurer and recorder, face a between 20 and 25 percent cut to their 2012 operations. Officials hope to restore all county operations back to their 2011 levels by 2013, when the county can begin collecting the full $22 million in annual sales tax revenue.