Officials Promote Sales Tax To Pay For School Construction

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - Area politicians have started promoting a sales tax that would be the first in the state to pay for school construction.

The 30-year, half-cent increase would raise the sales tax rate from 5.75 percent to 6.25 percent and generate an estimated $30 million a year to pay for school capital projects in Summit County.

Political leaders on Monday called such an increase the fairest way to raise millions of dollars to build or renovate schools.

"People have been crying out for an alternative" to relying on property taxes to pay for schools, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic said.

The Summit County Council must approve putting the measure on the November ballot.

The revenue from the tax would be divided among the school districts based on enrollment.

Summit County Executive James McCarthy said he strongly supports the proposal and urged municipal, township and school leaders throughout the county to do the same.

The state has failed to adequately fund education in Ohio, he said, so it is up to local officials to be innovative in raising money.

Some people "say we may be barking up the wrong tree with a sales tax," McCarthy said, "but at least we're barking."

Richard Fedorovich, managing partner of the accounting firm of Bober, Markey, Fedorovich & Co. in Akron and chair of the study panel supporting the tax, acknowledged that nobody wants new taxes.

But to do nothing, he said, "does not further the economic need of education and work force development."

A sales tax is fairer than other forms of taxation, he said, because it "distributes the burden" back to consumers who made the decision to buy taxable items.

Because the money will be doled out on a per-pupil basis, "it couldn't be more fair," said Val Sawhill, another member of the study panel.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)