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CANTON, OH (October 21, 2009) - The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has voted unanimously to endorse passage of Issue 5, the Stark County sales tax question.

The Chamber board unanimously supports the tax primarily because of the lifesaving advantages of a centralized, modern 911 emergency dispatching system for the county. The new system envisioned by the county will eliminate the need to transfer emergency calls from the first answering station to the actual police, fire or emergency department that needs to respond. It also will institute a system in which the nearest emergency responder will answer the call for help, regardless of political boundaries.

Passage of the issue will also result in money savings to local governments. These governments now contribute about $6.8 million total per year to operate several 911 call-answering offices. That money will come back to the cities, villages and townships in savings when the county system is put into operation.

The commissioners have pledged that if voters retain the 0.5 percent tax, commissioners will cancel the 0.25 percent tax that was voted into effect in 2002. They also will cancel a 0.1-mill property tax that offers some funding for the existing 911 service.

Countywide 911 is a step toward regional cooperation among local governments, and the Chamber is an advocate of seeking sensible regional approaches to common problems in government.

"A regional vision is fully supported by the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce," said Chamber President and CEO Dennis P. Saunier. "Frankly, we need to see more and more of that." Moving toward a regional approach to emergency response is a start, Saunier said. "But safety is probably the best place to start."

The net effect of a "yes" vote on Issue 5 will be an increase in the sales tax from 0.25 percent, which has been in effect since 2003, to 0.5 percent. A 0.25 percent sales tax in Stark County generates about $11 million per year. Half of that new $11 million per year will be pledged toward first building a modern 911 call center and then operating it. The other half will be devoted to county operations, where anticipated 2009 revenue and carryover without the tax increase would be $6 million less than in 2008.

A "yes" vote, which the Chamber recommends, will retain the 0.5-percent county sales tax imposed by Stark County commissioners. The purpose of the tax is to fund countywide 911 emergency dispatching service and provide a small increase in county operating funds.

"The business community always looks carefully at the justification for any tax increase, and our Chamber board did so in this case," said Ronald D. Becker, chairman and CEO of Hilscher-Clarke Electric Co, and chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors. "We found the need for truly modern 911 services was compelling. The Chamber would urge the county to be most prudent in using the modest increase in operating funds that comes its way through the new sales tax."

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