Tax hikes included in budget proposal |

Tax hikes included in budget proposal

Caroline Kingsley, The Park Record

The Summit County Council reviewed a 2013 budget plan on Wednesday that included the increase of two taxes recently halted through referendums.

"This budget assumes a tax increase. I don’t know really how to do without it and not impact services," County Manager Bob Jasper said.

The County Council adopted two tax increases in August this year, after holding two Truth in Taxation hearings. Opponents to the tax increases then successfully challenged them with petitions. Both are on hold until citizens vote on them in a future election.

The two taxes, the Municipal Fund tax and Service Area #6 tax, affect road maintenance and Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputy funds. To help re-balance the budget, Jasper froze the positions of a planner and two Sheriff’s Office deputies. Including those, the county has eliminated 18 positions since 2009.

"I won’t recommend not maintaining our roads," Jasper said. "I would argue that that’s a phony cut. You just owe more money two years later to reconstruct your roads."

The proposed budget recommends a .5 percent increase over the 2012 budget, including recommendations for a $50,000 public information services contract, $50,000 for contract assistance for the county attorney’s prosecution division and $60,000 for a commercial appraiser contract.

It also includes the road improvement projects that could be completed without a tax increase, such as reconstruction of Old Ranch Road and of Parkview Drive, and those that would be funded through a tax increase, such as the repair of West Hoytsville Slide and an overlay of Pinebrook Boulevard.

"What is nice about this, but is lacking elsewhere in the budget, is clearly stating what I get with and without a tax increase," County Councilmember Chris Robinson said. "If you’re asking this body to serve up a tax increase, I’d like to know that if we do this, what do we get."

County Councilmember John Hanrahan expressed concern that if the taxes are reinstated, citizens may just circulate petitions again.

"Now, let’s assume the petition is unsuccessful next year, you won’t know till October that the tax increase passed, essentially," Hanrahan said. "What are you going to do? Are you going to delay the $400,000 in road projects until October, when you find out if you have the money or not? Are you going to delay the $1.2 million in other funds throughout the year of operating? You can’t do it."

Jasper replied that he will provide the County Council with budget scenarios, and if tax increases are passed, the County Council could put the expected revenues into surplus until they determine if it’s something the citizens want.

"Some of the information you requested should be communicated to the citizens, so they can make informed choices," Jasper said. "There may be a petition. But a petition is not the same thing as an election. There is no decision making. I think we should give some faith and trust in the voters of this county."