Commissioners debate $5 tax

Seneca County commissioners further discussed the $5 permissive tax on registered vehicles during their meeting Tuesday morning.

Board President Jeff Wagner announced he was against the fee at last week’s meeting, and Commissioner Fred Zoeller offered his counter-arguments Tuesday morning.

Zoeller said if fellow commissioners do not support the tax, they need to come up with a plan to take care of long-term issues, including safety improvements to SR 53, a declining population and a justice center.

“We have to do something, we have issues ahead of us,” he said.

Commissioner Holly Stacy said there is “room for improvement” in the county, and if the $5 permissive tax is something commissioners want to pursue, a better-defined plan is needed.

Stacy said there are other types of permissive taxes the county could add all of which would generate around $200,000 but the money would come from different sources.

Zoeller said improving the county’s roads can increase business and revenue, but the county would need to show it has “some skin in the game” to get state funding for a project.

Wagner said the county and Engineer Mark Zimmerman have offered the Ohio Department of

Transportation a 20-percent match on a bypass road.

Commissioners have been setting aside money each year for a justice center.

“I think to tie that $5 license tax to all the problems in the county is quite an over-reach,” Wagner said.

Wagner said commissioners are “continually trying to improve in all areas of the county.” He said he does not support a tax increase, and thinks the county should work within its means.

Stacy said before commissioners can vote on a permissive tax, they are required by law to hold public hearings.

Stacy, who previously said she opposed the tax, said she is open to public input before making a final decision.

Wagner said he would consider putting the tax on the ballot, but remained staunchly opposed to it.

“When you’re riding a horse and the horse dies, you get off,” Wagner said. “I’m not imposing a tax.”

Stacy said there are three methods of enacting a permissive tax. Only the “emergency method,” which would enact the tax immediately, requires all three commissioners to approve the tax.

According to the County Commissioners’ Association of Ohio handbook, the “regular method” would allow the tax to take effect 30 days after a vote by commissioners. During the 30 days, a referendum could be requested, which would put the tax on the next ballot.

The “electorate method” allows commissioners to put the tax on the ballot.

Citizen Paul Shoemaker said commissioners should not add the $5 tax, and should search to see if they have other money available to support a project to improve SR 53.

Shoemaker said the county should use the money it has saved for the justice center to improve SR 53 because the government “should not save money for a later project.”

Citizen Kenneth Davison said he supports the tax because it is a worthy cause.

Davison, who has lived in the county for more than 70 years, said it is important for Seneca County to recover its reputation.

“One thing I’ve learned is you’ve got to spend money to make money,” he said. “The trick is you’ve got to spend it for the right thing.”

Stephen Kisan, a junior at Heidelberg University and president of the Seneca County Young Republicans club, said he, too, supports the $5 permissive tax.

“Providing more jobs and more economic development will be more appealing for college graduates in staying in the community,” Kisan said. “I think it’s a huge trickle-down effect.”