Tax referendum deadline approaching
Ryan Summerlin October 5, 2012
All the packets are out. Now it’s just a waiting game to see if enough signatures are collected to halt two tax increases, recently passed by the Summit County Council.
A minimum of 2,115 signatures are needed by Monday, Oct. 8 for the Municipal Fund and Service Area #6 tax increases to go before voters in the 2014 election. The new tax rates are already factored into the county’s current budget. But if enough qualified signatures are collected, the tax increases will be frozen until the 2014 decision.
Jacqueline Smith, a S.T.A.R. forum member who is spearheading the petition drive, said their success will depend on how the packets come back.
"If they come back half-full, I’m in trouble. If they come back full, we’ll be fine. We have a lot of people gathering signatures, so it will all depend on how motivated they are to get them done," Smith said.
To help motivate those handing out packets, and to compensate them for their time, Smith is paying some of the individuals $50 per packet of 50 signatures.
"If somebody is willing to fill an entire packet, they’ll get $50," Smith said. "But we don’t actually have that many people that are on that plan. There’s probably about five. Most of the people that are doing this are volunteers who don’t have any desire to make money on this. They just want to make it happen."
As of Thursday, Smith said she did not have an exact tally of how many people had signed, but added the drive was going well.
"I was on the East Side of the county and for every 20 people I asked, I would get one or two ‘no’s. It was very rare to get someone that said no," Smith said.
Smith did find some who were not registered to vote, however. She didn’t have them sign the petition, but encouraged them to register to vote.
Others wanted more information before committing themselves to signing the petition. Smith said she directed them to the previous Park Record articles to read both sides of the argument.
"And I give them a card so they can call me back. And I have had people call me back after they’ve read up on it and are ready to sign," Smith said.
The Municipal Fund tax hike will increase taxes $64 a year on a home assessed at $480,000 and the Service Area #6 tax hike will increase taxes $29 a year on a home assessed at $498,000.
The county anticipates collecting $1.26 million from the Municipal Fund tax increase and $177,000 from the Service Area #6 tax increase.
The Municipal Fund tax was levied to deliver municipal-type services, such as collector road maintenance and Sheriff’s patrol, to all property owners in the Summit County unincorporated areas west of Mirror Lake Highway.
The Service Area #6 tax was levied to deliver road maintenance and plowing services to specific unincorporated neighborhoods throughout the county.
Some property owners fall into both areas and will be hit by both tax increases.
According to Summit County Manager Bob Jasper, because the county was depending on the revenue to provide services and employee salaries to benefit unincorporated Summit County and Service Area #6, if the 2,115 signatures are collected, the county will need to reassess the budget and make changes to bring the budgets back into balance.
The county is about to start working on next year’s budget, and Jasper says the county might combine those discussions with strategies on how to rebalance the Municipal Tax Fund and Service Area #6 budgets.
"My best guess is, we’ll try to wrap how to balance this year’s problems and next year’s into one set of discussions with the council," Jasper said. "It probably doesn’t make sense to have two different processes. If the revenues won’t be coming in, we will have to take some corrective action, because this year’s balanced budget will be out of balance."