Stacy leaning toward ‘no’ on license fee

Commissioner Holly Stacy said she is leaning toward voting against the proposed $5 permissive tax for registered vehicles, at Thursday morning’s commissioners meeting.

Stacy said she still has a meeting with Ohio Department of Transportation’s District Two Monday to complete her research, but she said she is inclined to vote no at the moment.

She listed four reasons why she is likely to vote the tax down.

Stacy said commissioners do not have a specific plan of how the county would use additional funds for roads and bridges.

She said based on the number vehicles in 2011, the $5 tax would raise about $200,000 a year.

Vehicle receipts already collected in Seneca County add up to about $287,000 Stacy said.

Stacy said the board is not prepared to vote on any tax because it has not held two public hearings, which is required by the Ohio Revised Code.

Commissioner Fred Zoeller, who proposed the tax, has spoken in favor of the fee, so the county can have some money to possibly match a grant from the state.

Commissioner Jeff Wagner has not taken an official stance on the levy.

Seneca County resident Mike Obarr said he is concerned about townships that already have a permissive fee getting double taxed.

“It’s just not fair,” Obarr said. “It’s just like stealing.”

Resident Tom Breidenbach, who has spoken in previous meetings in favor of the tax, said he stands by his support of the fee because the roads need to be repaired.

“I’ve been around here 80 years, and we need this tax,” Breidenbach said. “It’s going to cost me a bunch, but I’m willing to go for it. We need it, our kids need it, the county needs it.”

Zoeller said the county needs to find a way to invest to improve the area and increase economic development and safety.

“Are we happy with where we are? If we are, then by God let’s leave things just the way they are,” Zoeller said. “If we’re not, then maybe this isn’t the way to go about it the $5 tax but let’s come up with something. I didn’t take this job to sit here and vote on resolutions and be a rubber stamp. I’m open for suggestions.”

Obarr said the high number of accidents in Seneca County is from “ignorance” and people running stop signs and texting while driving, not the roads.

“You can’t blame the roads for the accidents, you got to blame the people,” he said. “They’re not paying attention what they’re doing. They’re not observing what they’re doing.”

Zoeller said if commissioners approve the $5 permissive tax, he would recommend to take the tax off after his four years in office if the county does not receive grant money from ODOT.

He also said if the county cannot get money from the state for road improvements, he proposed commissioners distribute the money to the townships to put toward their roads.

Resident Bruce Lambert, who spoke at last Tuesday’s meeting against the tax, said commissioners should consider earmarking some of the county’s unappropriated funds, which is about $1.2 million.

Wagner said it is possible to take some money from the unappropriated balance, but he said that money “normally whittles towards the end of the year” and the commissioners take some money from that to put in a courthouse replacement fund.

“You need some unappropriated for things that come up,” Wagner said. “Things always come up. It’s a possibility, but I don’t know if I’m comfortable doing it.”

In other business, commissioners discussed ways to get money to upgrade the phone systems in RTA and the Courthouse Annex buildings.

The phone systems would cost the county about $24,000 after a $5,000 rebate, and Zoeller is asking department heads to help contribute to phone upgrades.

County Administrator Stacy Wilson said the county has spent about $40,000 over the past five years to maintain the current system, which she said is not user-friendly.

Also at the meeting, commissioners signed a proclamation declaring May Community Action Month.

Joyce Huntly of WSOS also gave commissioners an annual report on the work WSOS has done.

“This year is our 48th year fighting the war on poverty,” Huntly said. “We’re still going good at it, and this past year has been especially challenging. Everybody is facing a lot of challenges as we go through the various economic conditions of the nation, but yet we’re able to provide for our communities.”