LORAIN COUNTY, OH (WOIO) - Despite strong opposition from voters in November, Lorain County Commissioners decided to approve a 0.25 percent sales tax increase.
"We're about $6 million short for running 2017. If the sales tax increase doesn't stay intact, we're looking at 20 percent cuts across the board to every department," said Lorain County Commissioner Ted Kalo.
The 0.25 percent increase will take Lorain County's sales tax rates from 6.5 percent to 6.75 percent.
Kalo said the move would bring in about $9.5 million for county operations.
"Crimes have gone up, the heroin epidemic is swamping everyone, the coroner has doubled in the amount of autopsies he has to perform and the overdoses they have to deal with. It's just something Lorain County has needed for a long time," said Kalo.
Kalo said there is a slight difference in what county commissioners passed, compared to what people in Lorain County voted down in November. The funds generated will go directly to county operations, not to county transit.
"Why vote if your vote is going to be ignored?" said Kirsten Hill, who helped form the group Citizens for a Better Lorain County Government.
Hill is having people sign petitions at her store, Penton's Farm Market, in Amherst. To make a difference, the opposition will need to collect more than 7,000 signatures by Jan. 13.
"It's only been a week and we have one week more until they're due, so it's a pretty high mountain to climb," she said.
The group said people in Lorain County already struggle financially, and this sales tax increase will make matters worse.
"For people who sell large dollar items, appliances, cars, and that sort of thing. It could make a significant impact on people traveling from other counties to Lorain County because it's an attractive place to buy large dollar items," Hill said.
To put the increase into perspective, Kalo said a $40,000 car would cost a family an extra $100 after the sales tax increase.
As an elected official, he said he feels it's his responsibility to make sure there is a budget to operate under.
"We would like to have the public pass it, but we're in such dire straits currently, in regards to operations, that we have no choice," he said.
The last general fund sales tax increase was in 1986.
If those who oppose the sales tax increase don't collect more than 7,000 signatures by Jan. 13, the sales tax increase will go into effect in Lorain County in April.
Citizens for a Better Lorain County Government scheduled a rally for Friday at noon in front of the Lorain County Administration Building, 226 Middle Ave, Elyria. Group members also set up petition signing locations throughout the county.
Cleveland 19 News looked to see how other counties compare to Lorain County's soon-to-be 6.75 percent sales tax rate.
Taking into consideration all 88 counties in Ohio, it's quickly evident Cuyahoga County has the highest sales tax rate in the state. At 8 percent, Cuyahoga is the only county in Ohio that hits that mark.
Franklin County, which is in the Columbus area, is second, at 7.50 percent. Fifty counties throughout Ohio have a 7.25 percent sales tax rate.
In Northeast Ohio, here's some other county sales tax rates:
- Lake County - 7 percent
- Geauga County- 6.75 percent
- Summit County- 6.75 percent
- Medina County - 6.75 percent
- Lorain County - 6.50 percent (will likely bump up to 6.75 in April)
For a map showing the rest of the state click here.
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