###Contact David Kaminski, director of education and government affairs, Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce: 330-458-2059 or 330-418-4402 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Canton Regional Chamber Board of Directors endorses Stark County sales tax
CANTON, OH (Sept. 28, 2011) – Members of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors at their September meeting voted unanimously to give a strong endorsement to the Stark County half-percent sales tax on the November ballot. The Chamber will campaign for passage of the sales tax in print and through the Internet. The sales tax is critical to public safety, the Chamber’s board determined. Without it, the Sheriff’s Department, which operates the Stark County Jail, will have its budget cut 40 percent in 2012. That would leave the jail with money to operate with only 122 beds in 2012. That is down from the 501 beds available when there are enough deputies and corrections officers to supervise the entire facility safely. Most offices in county government would endure 40 percent budget cuts in 2012 without the tax, resulting in severe cutbacks in employees and days of operation. “In our review of the situation, we believe county government has made responsible cuts to budgets and workforce to meet declining revenues. There comes a point when further cuts jeopardize the basic operations of government, particularly in a critical area such as public safety” said George W. Lemon, chairman of the board at the Canton Regional Chamber. “That is why we support the sales tax.” When there are too few corrections officers and deputies to operate the jail at capacity, criminal suspects who should be in jail awaiting trial are set free. The jail population has already been reduced this year to about 300, leaving many criminal suspects free to commit more crimes. The vast majority of departments funded through Stark County government’s General Fund have had their budgets cut in 2011. The Sheriff’s Department alone has seen its budget reduced from about $16.6 million in 2010 to about $13.8 million this year. If the tax is passed, county government will use new money in 2012 to bring the jail back to acceptable levels of operation as quickly as possible. The sheriff will receive the $16.6 million he received in 2010, and most other departments in government will undergo a 23 percent budget cut to make that happen. These further cuts would be necessary in 2012 because of the timing for collection of new tax money. If voters approve the half-percent sales tax in November, businesses won’t start collecting the half-percent until April 1. State government won’t start making payments to Stark County until July 1. So, in effect, the tax will not benefit county government for the first six months of 2012. If the tax is not passed, 40 percent budget cuts in county government next year may mean that the jail is not available for city and township police officers who arrest criminal suspects. Police throughout Stark County depend on the jail to house their prisoners. Canton, Massillon and Alliance do not have functioning jails. Public safety aside, 40 percent cuts in other General Fund operations would mean many county offices would not be open more than two or three days a week, county officials predict. This would mean a slowdown in real estate filings, the functioning of the courts and the collection and distribution of real estate taxes to public schools, township governments and other public institutions. “This slowdown in the ability of county government to function will severely curtail the county’s ability to serve as a place for employers to conduct business.” said Chamber President and CEO Dennis P. Saunier.