Mentor Leaders Call for Lake County Commissioners to Rescind Sales Tax Increase

In Lake County, a discussion about raising the sales tax is ongoing. The county’s 7.75 percent sales tax rate, which is now the third-highest in the state, was approved earlier this month by the county Board of Commissioners after a 0.5 percent hike.

On January 12th, the commissioners passed the sales tax increase by a vote of 2 to 1, with John R. Hamercheck and Richard J. Regovich voting in favor and John Plecnik opposed.

The Mentor City Council voted unanimously in favor of a motion on Tuesday asking the commissioners to reverse the tax increase.

Vice-President of Council Scott J. Marn presented a resolution at the city council meeting on January 18th, asking the Lake County Commissioners to revoke the increase on behalf of the Mentor City Council. Marn urged other towns to voice their anger and enact similar resolutions by following Mentor’s example.

“We just don’t agree with an increase at this time, due to the economy, due to the inflation, the gasoline prices. Everybody’s having a hard time making ends meet, so we hope they’ll change their mind,” Mentor City Council Member John Krueger said.

Due to its reliance on retail, Mentor leaders said that the rise than other parts of the county will more impact the city. Mentor, according to Council President Matthew Donovan, is Ohio’s sixth-largest retail center, with over 300 manufacturers which realize over $2.5 billion in annual manufacturer shipments.

“This is of particular concern to our city as the sixth largest retail center in Ohio. When sales decrease, jobs are lost and municipalities dependent on income taxes suffer the consequences. And let’s be clear that this is exactly the wrong time. Families throughout Lake County are suffering from the highest inflation we’ve seen in decades. Do we really want to place an additional half-percent on goods and services that they are already struggling to afford,” Donovan said.

Following the reading, a number of council members firmly expressed their worries about the adverse effects the tax hike will have on people who live in and conduct business in Lake County, especially in Mentor.

“Two commissioners ignored our concerns approving the tax increase by a vote of 2 to 1, making Lake County’s sales tax the third highest in the state of Ohio. In our country’s current recessionary climate, Mentor residents and our business will, unfortunately, carry the additional financial burden created from a poor understanding of fiscal management by our elected county commissioners,” Councilperson-at-Large Ray Kirchner said.

Councilperson-at-Large Janet A. Dowling acknowledged receiving several calls from locals who expressed worry and opposition to the hike as well. She continued by saying that although 50 cents out of every $100 may not seem like much, it would result in millions of dollars going to the government instead of being used locally.

City council members passed the resolution 6-0 with an abstention from Donovan due to a conflict with his employment status with the county.

The city council members say they hope the county commission will walk back the increase. According to Board of Commissions President John Hamercheck, it is unlikely that they will repeal it.

According to Hamercheck, the sales tax increase is expected to generate an additional $16 to $20 million annually, which Hamercheck explained will go to public safety.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from our public safety forces, including our sheriff, our prosecutor, our courts, of which we have seven, that there are demands and stresses they cannot sustain,” Hamercheck said.

The board president noted that to increase hiring, retention, and criminal prosecution, the sheriff’s office and prosecutor’s office both intend to raise compensation to be more competitive with surrounding counties.

Hamercheck claims that the prosecutor’s office is currently at capacity. They are unable to take on additional cases. He continued that non-Lake County residents commit 46 percent of the major crimes in the county, and a sales tax is the only option to collect money from areas other than Lake County.

According to Krueger, the county has over $100 million in assets, $38 million in reserve, and an additional $9 million in employee stability funds that are readily available.

Hamercheck said that the law forbids the board from using the investments. Additionally, he claimed that the coffers are insufficient to pay for the $15 million mortuary for the medical examiner and the $22 million needed for a new emergency operations center.

“Those demands are far exceeding what our general fund is able to support,” Hamercheck said.

Residents expressed their worries about the sales tax rise exacerbating the financial difficulties brought on by inflation during recent public gatherings.

“I’m retired. I’m not going back to work to pay for taxes. I worked 50 years,” one woman said.

According to Hamercheck, although he understands people’s feelings and emotions, he has to look at the numbers and facts, and the increase will improve the county’s quality of life by addressing issues with public safety and criminality.

According to the commissioner’s office, unless the new tax hike is rescinded, the new rate will take effect on April 1st.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Lake County Ohio Commissioners Meeting” by Lake County Ohio.




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