Recently, Hancock County business and industry members have come out in support of continuing a 0.5 percent sales tax, half of which goes toward flood-control efforts.
Last week, the Findlay-Hancock County Advisory Board, an economic development support organization, signed onto a letter urging the county commissioners to put the sales tax issue, which expires at the end of next year, back on the ballot.
This week, a dozen or so members of the same group attended a commissioners meeting to make the same argument in person.
It’s still early in the process, but it would be hard to find a good reason why the $7 million generated by the tax each year is no longer needed. Half that amount should continue to go to flood control should the tax be renewed.
While some people may need more evidence the money is still needed, the commissioners are doing the right thing by listening rather than talking, at least for now.
If the sales tax, which was first approved by voters in 2009, is going to continue to be collected after 2018, it will have to be put back on the ballot either this year or next year.
To make November’s ballot, the commissioners will have to commit by Aug. 9. They’ll also have to hold two public hearings and submit the issue to the board of elections by that date.
Until then, it’s prudent the commissioners continue to vet the issue in a transparent fashion.
Voters need to know exactly how the sales tax proceeds will be allocated, and that a portion will be dedicated to long-term maintenance of the river.
Certainly, a continuance of the tax should not be seen as an endorsement of the $140 million proposal to construct three dry storage basins south of Findlay, one of the recommendations made as part of the county’s flood-control project.
That project still requires further debate and will need additional sources of funding even if a decision is made to proceed with it.
The anticipated rise in cost to operate the county’s criminal justice system is another factor in the sales tax conversation.
Commissioners will need to determine if the sales tax is enough to help offset the projected rise in criminal justice expenses.
Over 300 criminal indictments are expected to be filed this year by the prosecutor’s office, a record for Hancock County.
The volume of cases alone will result in additional expenses to the sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices, indigent defense and jail costs, which collectively are the county’s largest budget obligation.
It’s hard to imagine how the county would get by without the money generated by the additional sales tax. But at least for now, the commissioners must continue to make the case, before committing to extend it.
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