Owning up to a wrong
That’s My Opinion
By Bob Robinson
Now that the dust seems to have settled – for the moment – on the
proposed .25 percent sales tax increase Commissioner Mike Stegall has
brought up, I’d like to raise a few questions.
New information has come to light.
Let’s start with MARCS, the Multi Agency Radio Communications System
Bob Rhoades told us about that last week. Is there a reason we aren’t
considering doing what some of our neighbors have done? It’s been
around for seven years and has been embraced by Mercer and other
If I understood Bob correctly, we could meet our 911 mandate at about
half the start-up cost and the state would be responsible for the
Then Mr. Taxpayer said the jail was state-of-the-art at the time it was
built and used the specifications that were required by Ohio. This is a
far cry from the poorly constructed jail I heard about a couple weeks
ago. So who’s right?
The jail is in need of a lot of work. It is long past due. While Mike
responded to our Taxpayer and gave him specifics on how the money would
be used, he didn’t comment on the tone of his original statements. Moot
point maybe, but it has much to do with the credibility factor about
which I originally wrote.
Casino funding. Mike sluffed it off when he spoke at Kiwanis. Maybe he
was right to do so; then again, maybe not. According to Jo Ann
Davidson, Ohio Casino Control Commission, two casinos are scheduled to
open soon… one at the end of March, the other in early April. As I
understand it, the promised county money should start arriving in June
Ohio has systematically been dumping all of its “local” funding that
counties have enjoyed in the past. Typically, when voters approve
something that is designated for local use, the state provides it as
required but removes something else so there is little additional
benefit at our level. Today, there’s nothing left to take away, so the
51 percent that is supposed to be distributed among the 88 counties
should actually be coming. What nobody knows at this point is how much money might be involved, if any.
While Mike – as I – might look at this skeptically based upon past
experience, I believe it deserved a little more thought and discussion
than just being sluffed off without offering any details. After all,
he’s asking us to support another tax increase that may or may not be
While I agree with Mike that we must, over the long haul, become self
sufficient and not dependent on outside funding (from the state or
otherwise), that is simply not realistic. We have to face reality. I was surprised to find out
that Darke County is among slightly over half of the 88 counties that
have levied the full 1.5 percent sales tax option.
That means that nearly half are getting by with less. And we are
considering actually asking the voters to increase it? At the same
time, I’m not unaware that sales tax is not the only form of funding
used to support local government operations.
While the state is making tremendous inroads at becoming more business
friendly, I also learned that Ohio ranks sixth highest in the nation
for local taxes. I don’t know where Darke County stands in its overall tax
burden, but it might be important for us to find out. As I and others
have repeated like a broken record – and has been acknowledged by our
local public servants – high taxes is one of the biggest impediments we
can throw at our economic development efforts.
We added one new tax a year ago (the Conveyance Fee that despite its
name is a tax) and now we are asking for another one. The increase that
took us to our Sales Tax optional max several years ago was supposed to
be temporary and like all others, it never went away.
Have we shot ourselves in the foot without realizing it? The one new
tax that I have always felt was necessary to improve our look to
possible new businesses – not to mention benefiting our kids - has to
do with our city schools, yet local voters are so tax weary they have
yet to be convinced to support it.
I still believe our local officials, especially at the county level,
are doing a good, fiscally responsible job.
One of my most “pleasurable” moments last week came when I was turning
over thousands of dollars to our County Treasurer Scott Zumbrink (he
asked me to say that). I always make sure that when I “give to Ceasar
that which is Ceasar’s” I do it to the taxman himself and give him a
hard time. That part, at least, was pleasurable.
And I also firmly believe we need to fix the county jail. As Mike noted
in his presentation, it is open for business 24-7. And it houses some
really bad guys with more to come. Safety for all is a priority.
What I don’t understand is the timing of this campaign with a Primary
coming up. Doesn't it muddy the dialog? Delaying its introduction until
Primary would have hurt nothing. Do we really have all the information
we need about MARCS? And what about the casino dollars? If they start
showing up in
June or July will we really need a new tax? If they don’t, or the
dollars fall short of needs, don’t we
still have time to campaign for a new tax on the November ballot?
Now… In response to Mike’s statements about being right, and right
again, and right again, and (albeit kiddingly) ‘always right’ in our
one-on-one conversations, I really hate to tell you this ol’ buddy… but
you might consider owning up to a wrong or two.
MARCS? Not mentioned. Casino funding? Sluffed off. Lousy jail
construction? Disputed. And doing my own research to discover you were
right? You assumed I was against something when I wasn’t. I said I
hadn’t decided… Yes, I did the research and, based on that research,
made a reasoned decision.
However I have now discovered that all the information wasn’t
presented. Real or imagined, realistic or not, we have to assume this
information was considered before asking us about a tax increase. If it
was, wouldn’t it have been prudent to share it with us to help in our
decision-making process? After all, all taxes – new or otherwise - is
money out of our pockets.
I think it would have been prudent. But it didn’t happen.
That’s my opinion. What’s yours?