TRUMBULL COMMISSIONERS Tsagaris and Heltzel would back sales tax

Taxpayers call for accountability, the board chairman stressed.
WARREN -- Trumbull County Commissioners James Tsagaris and Paul Heltzel are indicating their support for imposing an additional county sales tax.
Commissioner Daniel Polivka, board chairman, said he recognizes the county has a real crisis but would like to see all of the county departments work together on addressing it. Polivka has stated that a sales tax is an option of last resort.
Trumbull County's budget commission urged county commissioners earlier this week to impose a second, half-percent sales tax to generate $6 million to $8 million annually. The commission includes the county auditor, treasurer and prosecutor.
Commissioners had a second round of budget hearings with department heads last week. The $32 million certified for the county's general fund this year is $6 million short of what's needed, will spur layoffs and reduce county services to the public, officials said. Commissioners were asked about the tax option after their regular Wednesday meeting.
Unchanged position
Heltzel said his basic position is unchanged and that he would support an additional tax "if it's necessary to maintain minimal services, and I think that's become more and more apparent as we go through the budget process."
"Same sentiment," Tsagaris echoed.
If the county's really in trouble, a tax "for the immediate" needs could be imposed, he agreed. Eventually Tsagaris would like to see people vote on the matter, but he said there is no countywide election planned this year. There are only municipal primaries this year, and the cost to open the polls for a countywide issue is high.
The county already has a half-percent sales tax in effect. In 2003, voters soundly rejected another half-percent sales tax the county had been collecting, creating the present budget crunch.
Public hearings
Commissioners would have to schedule two public hearings 10 days apart before voting on a tax.
Making the tax effective July 1 would not bring new money to the county until October, because it takes three months for the proceeds to be distributed by the state.
County 911 center director Tim Gladis and Sheriff Thomas Altiere also support a sales tax, but earmarked especially for safety services.