Leaders support sales tax

Sales tax revenue helps the county secure government grants for growth.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Labor leaders say renewal of a 0.5 percent Mahoning County sales tax is critical for the county's economic health.
About a dozen representatives of area labor organizations met for a brief rally Wednesday in the county courthouse to support a five-year renewal of the tax, which will be on the ballot Tuesday.
"This money supplies matching funds for infrastructure projects," said Don Crane, president of the Western Reserve Building & amp; Construction Trades Council. "And infrastructure is 50 percent of the work we do, so it's extremely important."
Matching dollars
Crane said the tax helps provide local matching dollars that the county uses to leverage state and federal grants for projects such as building roads and water and sewer lines. Those projects, he said, are essential in the county's future economic growth.
"The county that supplies more of those things gets more development," he said.
The county has two 0.5 percent sales taxes on the books. The one that's up for renewal next week expires at the end of this year. The other was renewed for five years in November 2002.
Larry Fauver, president of the Greater Youngstown AFL/CIO, said the constant cycle of having to campaign for passage of the taxes has hindered the county's ability to make a long-term financial plan and boost economic development.
"At some point in this county we need to come around and have some stability," Fauver said. "We need to move forward instead of backward."
County commissioners say each 0.5 percent tax brings in about $12 million a year. Combined, they account for just more than half the county's annual general fund revenue.
Without the revenue generated by the tax, county services would be severely curtailed, and massive layoffs of county employees would be imminent, commissioners say.