West Side News

Franklin County

Commissioners give their nod to half-cent sales tax hike

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Franklin County residents soon will be paying more for cars, computers, TVs and other durable goods.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners on Sept. 24 unanimously approved a 0.5-cent increase in the county sales tax, which goes into effect Jan. 1.

The rate reflects a permanent quarter-cent hike and a temporary quarter-cent in-crease, which will expire in five years.

It moves the entire sales tax rate to 7.5 percent, the second-highest in Ohio.

Cuyahoga County's sales tax remains the highest at 8 percent.

A family of four with a household income of $50,000 can expect to pay an extra $57.50 a year. The tax would result in an extra $4 on an $800 TV, $6.50 on a $1,300 refrigerator and $100 on a $20,000 car.

Commissioners defended their position as fiscally responsible and responsive to a growing number of disadvantaged central Ohioans.

The commissioners said the higher tax will raise an estimated $96 million a year and will help adequately fund government operations and allow long-term financing for a new morgue and jail at a combined cost of $200 million.

"Franklin County has worked hard to maintain a high quality of life for our residents, despite receiving millions of dollars in state funding cuts and shrinking revenues," commission President John O'Grady said in a prepared statement. "I appreciate the cooperation of our fellow Franklin County office-holders who have helped to keep the belt tight.

"We must now position Franklin County to be able to serve our growing population by fostering job creation and delivering safety-net services to families, children, seniors, residents and businesses."

Not everyone agreed with the decision to increase the sales tax.

Greg Lawson, a Republican candidate for Columbus City Council, said he worries about the long-term economic health of the region and the messages higher taxes send to potential employers looking to move to central Ohio.

He said the increase, coupled with other state and local taxes -- otherwise known as "pancaking" -- could have a deleterious effect on business down the road.

For example, he said, Columbus raised its income tax from 2 to 2.5 percent in 2009. Also, a statewide 0.25-cent sales tax increase went into effect Sept. 1.

Meanwhile, Columbus City Schools is seeking a 9.01-mill levy this fall that would, if passed, represent a 24-percent increase in property taxes.

"Over time, you're going to have to bribe people to come here," Lawson said.

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