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S.T.A.R forum member Jacqueline Smith turned into Summit County Clerk Kent Jones more than the required signatures to put two Summit County tax increases on the 2014 budget on Monday. (Grayson West/Park Record)
Coalville resident Jacqueline Smith submitted 110 petition packets filled with signatures Monday at 4:40 p.m., enough, if they are valid, to roll back two recent tax rate increases and place them on the ballot in 2014. Smith said 200 of the signatures were collected on the final day.

She and the other petitioners collected 2,402 signatures to put the Municipal Fund tax increase on the ballot, and 2,352 signatures to put the Service Area #6 tax increase on the ballot.

"They needed at least 2,115 qualified signatures for each petition to make it legit," Summit County Clerk Kent Jones said.

After a summer-long effort, Smith said she felt "fantastic" about surpassing the number of signatures needed to freeze a pair of recently enacted county tax hikes. "I'm going to sleep really well tonight," Smith said on Monday.

Patti Deden, who helped collect signatures, said nine out of 10 people she talked to were happy to sign the petition.

"Those who weren't said things like, 'I don't mind paying more taxes,'" Deden said. "There were a few people, but it was very rare. Mostly, it was gratifying making the public aware."

Deden said one man even went back into a store and came back out with a bottled water and a candy bar for her, saying, "Thank you so much."

"Most people thanked us," Deden said.

Smith added that the issue seemed very bi-partisan for a lot of people across the county. "We've had all affiliates sign it: Democrat, Republican and Independent.



The Summit County Council, following a lightly attended Truth in Taxation hearing last December, approved the Municipal Fund and Service Area #6 tax increases in June.

The Municipal Fund tax affects property owners in the Summit County's unincorporated areas, while the Service Area #6 tax affects specific unincorporated neighborhoods throughout the county. Some property owners fall into both areas.

The tax increases passed by Council are projected to generate $1.425 million and $177,000 for the county, respectively, and would cost property owners $64 a year on a home assessed at $480,000 for the Municipal Fund tax, and $29 a year on a home assessed at $498,000 for the Service Area #6 tax .

Summit County resident Mike Crittenden came to the Clerk's Office to sign the petition at the last moment, saying that, unlike the folks Deden spoke of, he did mind paying more taxes.

"I'd like to see us make do with what we have, rather than raise them," Crittenden said. "I guess once we exhaust all those avenues, then other considerations have to be made, but I'm not sure we're at that point."

If the Clerk's Office verifies that enough signatures qualify, the tax increases, which were scheduled to appear on November tax bills, will be frozen until voters decide their fate in the 2014 general election.

Jones said the Clerk's Office wants to verify the signatures as quickly as they can, but he doesn't know how long it will take to examine all 55 packets for each petition.

"We're going to start on them today and work on them until we are done," Jones said. "And in a couple days we might have an idea of how long it will take to go through them. I'm hoping by the end of the week we'll have a pretty good idea."

The Summit County Council had already factored the tax increases into the current budget. County Manager Bob Jasper stated in a previous interview that if the increases are frozen, the Summit County Council will likely have to cut jobs and road maintenance in the areas affected by the two taxes to balance the budget.

Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said that as a sheriff responsible for public safety, he will be disappointed if a small group of people is responsible for reducing public safety capabilities in the county.

"I know that if the signatures are certified, then there will likely be reductions to my staff or the programming we do here," Edmunds said. "We've already had reductions to staff and programming over the last four or five years that we have not received back. We are continuously asked to do more with less. Our calls for service continue to increase 5-10 percent a year, as do our cases, our arrests and everything I am statutorily responsible for."

Edmunds said he was told by the County Auditor's Office that $700,000 of the Municipal Fund tax increase was earmarked for the Sheriff's Office.

"That's not an insignificant amount of money," he said. "You are talking about reductions somewhere. In a budget that is already cut to the bone, I cannot absorb an additional $700,000 without impacting services. I just simply cannot do that."