A divided Board of Clark County Commissioners voted 2-1 to continue the additional half-percent sales tax for three years.

A divided Board of Clark County Commissioners voted 2-1 to continue the additional half-percent sales tax for three years.

Commissioners John Detrick and Rick Lohnes, both Republicans, voted Tuesday night for the extension, while Commissioner David Hartley, a Democrat, rejected it.

Detrick said the extension will maintain basic services for citizens and provide stability to more than 400 county employees.

“Whether you believe in it or not, this is good for you,” Detrick said.

Hartley first asked for a 12-month extension, but did not receive a second.

Detrick then asked to extend the tax, first by 10 years, and then by five years, but could not find a second vote. Eventually, Detrick offered a three-year extension, and Lohnes broke the tie to continue the tax.

Hartley wanted to continue the tax for one year because he doesn’t trust the judgment of his fellow commissioners regarding spending.

“To go beyond 12 months I think will give them the freedom to recklessly spend our money, the taxpayers’ money,” Hartley said. “I was hoping, with a shorter time period, we could keep their urges to spend taxpayer money in control. Let’s face it: it appears we spend all our time taking care of people who don’t need the money.”

Detrick said he believed Hartley’s actions were “politically motivated.”

“I’m saddened by his bad decisions,” Detrick said.

Lohnes wanted to vote on a possible plan to have a half-percent tax for one year, which would then drop to a quarter-percent for four years, in order to allow commissioners time to cut the budget before funding levels were reduced.

“We don’t know the end result on the expanded sales tax, and we’re not sure what the casino money is going to look like in the end,” Lohnes said.

Kennedy said if the commission wanted a solution like Lohnes proposed, it would have to begin the process again to allow for more public hearings. Tuesday’s meeting came after two hearings specifically about the sales tax.

Lohnes said he would like to reduce the sales tax, but “it would be devastating without planning ahead.”

One percent of the county’s portion of the sales tax is permanent. The other half-percent tax was set to expire on Dec. 31.

Two weeks ago, county administrator Nathan Kennedy recommended continuing the sales tax for 10 years, which would allow time to offset debt created by planned capital projects, such as improvements to the county auditor’s system and renovations to the A.B. Graham Building and Common Pleas Courthouse. He also recommended against placing the issue on the ballot because the county would lose $2.4 million, even if it passed, due to a delay in collection.

Without extending the sales tax, the county faced cuts of $7.2 million, or 20 percent of its approximately $36 million annual general fund budget. In the worst-case scenario, approximately 100 to 120 people could have been laid off, with the majority of cuts coming from law enforcement.

The total sales tax paid in Clark County stands at 7 percent, including the temporary half-percent commissioners extended in February 2011 for 30 months. Five-and-a-half percent of the money goes to the state, while the rest goes to the county.

Detrick said Clark County is one of 49 counties with a 7 percent or higher sales tax, but it is the only one that’s temporary. Consumers pay an additional $70 per year on average statewide with the half-percent sales tax, Detrick said.

Champaign County made its 7 percent sales tax permanent five years ago, Detrick said.

“They don’t go through this heartburn every three years,” Detrick said. “From that standpoint, we are a democracy.”

State law says the sales tax resolution must be enacted 90 days before the new quarter begins on Jan. 1, according to Kennedy.

If commissioners did not vote Tuesday, the tax may not have been collected until the next quarter began April 1, Kennedy said.

Detrick then asked commissioners to consider extending the tax by three years because it will get Clark County through 2016 and, hopefully, the county will see an “economic rebound.”

Residents spoke both for and against the sales tax extension.

Springfield resident Robert Riley again told commissioners his desire to see the issue put before voters.

“It’s a democracy when you let the people vote, not three people, on matters of tax issues, especially,” Riley said.

Springfield resident Nancy Mahoney, a county employee who works at the Department of Jobs and Family Services, told commissioners she believed the sales tax should be continued because it’s the “fairest form” of taxation.

“It’s based on whatever you purchase,” Mahoney said. “It’s not based on income.”


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