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The Suburbanite
  • Stark sales tax has passed ... so what does it mean?

  • Here’s the nuts and bolts of the county sales tax that Stark County voters approved Tuesday to fund criminal justice services.

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  • County officials threw out a dizzying number of figures during the campaign for the county sales tax. You had figures for how much cash the county collects. Figures for what it could bring in if the sales tax passed or if it failed. And each of those figures had its own additional estimates for what each county department stood to gain or lose.
    Whew! To straighten it all out, here’s a breakdown of what the passage of the sales tax — Issue 29 — means to you:
    Who:  Nearly 56 percent of Stark County voters approved an eight year, 0.5 percent sales tax Tuesday that will generate roughly $22 million a year to fund county criminal justice services. The tax is paid by anyone who shops in Stark County. A recent Belden Village survey shows that 40 percent of the mall’s purchases were made by non-Stark County residents.
    Stark County commissioners will be responsible for distributing the money, starting in 2012, to the county offices that provide criminal justice services, such as the county sheriff, prosecutor, coroner, courts, clerk of courts and the Multi-County Juvenile Attention System.
    What:  The county’s total sales and use tax will increase from 5.75 percent to 6.25 percent April 1. Of the rate, the state already receives 5.5 percent and the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority receives 0.25 percent.
    Shoppers in Stark County will pay 50 cents more for every $100 they spend on taxable purchases. For example, you pay $1.72 in sales tax on the 3-D version of the newest Harry Potter DVD now and will pay $1.87 in sales tax for the same DVD with the increased tax. Groceries and prescriptions are not taxed.
    Stark County, which is the only county in Ohio without a sales tax to fund central government operations, still will have the lowest sales tax in Ohio at 6.25 percent but will share the distinction with four counties.
    When:  The sales tax will increase April 1. The county will begin to collect the tax revenue in July, due to a lag time built into state law.
    Where:  The money generated by the sales tax will be put into an account that’s separate from the county’s main operating fund. Under law, the tax revenue must be spent on criminal justice services. Commissioners plan to use the money to first restore the Stark County Sheriff’s Office, where 41 employees were laid off in December and the county jail’s capacity decreased from 501 to 300 due to lack of staff.
    Why:  Residents won’t seen an immediate change in safety services because the county will collect only six-months worth of revenue ($11 million) in 2012 and other county revenues have dwindled. Sheriff Timothy Swanson hopes to reopen 100 inmate beds at the county jail in 2012 and the remaining 100 in 2013. Most noncriminal justice departments still will face a 20 to 25 percent cut in funding next year. Commissioners hope to restore all offices and departments in 2013.

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