Ohio: Local Sales Tax Increase Needed to Combat Drug Problem
- Jul 23, 2015 | Gail Cole
Update, 7.27.2015: Read about the technical complications putting a kink in this plan.
Portage County, Ohio needs more jail space and more and better heroin treatment and rehabilitation facilities. The jails, especially the one housing women, are severely overcrowded. Heroin abuse is rampant, which leads to crimes and overdoses. Local court and safety officials are at the end of their rope. More revenue is needed to pay for essential services, and it’s needed now.
After listening to testimony from local officials, Portage County Commissioners decided to increase sales tax by 0.25% on October 1, 2015, without putting the measure on the ballot. During the discussion, it was said it could be a good idea to impose the tax without a vote; it would be a way to let the public know that "there is a dire need" for action. There is fear of federal intervention if the community doesn’t get a handle on the problem soon (Ohio.com).
If the sales tax increase (from 7% to 7.25%) proceeds as hoped, the county would start receiving additional revenue in December. The local sales tax increase would be in place for five years, at which point voters would be asked to extend it. County Commissioners predict it would bring in approximately $5 million annually.
The funds would pay for prison expansion, as well as “an extra road patrol to help deputies deal with a growing number of drug-related calls.” During the discussion it was pointed out that there were recently eight heroine overdoses in one night, six of them in the town of Ravenna.
In addition to increased prison capacity, county officials say the county needs to expand its treatment and rehabilitation program. Defendants could then be treated rather than simply imprisoned and released, as happens currently. Evidence suggests that heroin addicts seek a fix immediately upon release from prison.
No one is arguing that growing heroin use isn’t a problem. However, Portage County TEA Party Executive Director Tom Zawistowski resents the fact that the issue isn’t being brought before the people. He accused commissioners of keeping the measure off the ballot because they are “trying to use the jail issue as a way to permanently increase their budget….”
The County Commission meeting is available here.
Accurate local sales tax rates for all states are available through this free sales tax rate map.