Tax increase on students’ minds

Leslie Schelat

If approved this fall, a proposed Portage County sales-tax hike could affect how students spend their money.

On Nov. 8, voters will decide whether to raise the sales tax by .5 percent. The jump will move the sales tax from 6.75 percent to 7.25 percent and give Portage County the second highest sales tax in the state, behind Cuyahoga County. The Portage County commissioners voted to put the proposal on the ballot Aug. 25.

“I remember when Cleveland’s went to eight percent, and there were rallies and stuff,” said Joanne Reid, sophomore science education major.

Reid, who is from Cuyahoga County, said the increase does make a difference to students.

“When I bought books, there was $33 of tax,” she said. “I could buy a lot of stuff with $33.”

However, not all Kent State students agree that the proposed increase will have a significant impact on their spending.

“It’s ridiculous. Half a percent is nothing,” said Brent DeBona, junior sports management major.

If a student was to spend $500 on books, the proposed increase would add $2.50 to his or her total bill. Throughout the year, it would be an additional $50 for every $10,000 spent.

“I don’t think .5 percent is enough to make people go anywhere else,” DeBona said. “With the price of gas, it’s more expensive to drive out of Portage County to buy something than to pay more and stay here.”

Proposed by county commissioners, the increase would generate $6 million to $6.5 million in revenue, said John M. Lehman, director of the department of budget and financial management for Portage County. That money would go to the county’s general fund.

Without the extra income, the county may face deficits as early as next year.

“We’ve had a proposed 2006 budget for a few months now, and it is projecting a deficit for 2006,” Lehman said.

No matter what voters decide in November, changes will have to be made to the county’s budget, he said.

“Regardless of whether it passes or not, (budget requests) are going to have to be reduced to get the 2006 budget in balance,” Lehman said. “The commissioners can’t pass a deficit budget.”

If voters pass the proposal, it will not take effect until mid-2006, so increased revenues will not be seen until late 2006 and 2007.

In comparison to the rest of the state, Portage County’s sales tax of 6.75 percent sits just above the state average of 6.62 percent. The county receives one percent, and the Portage County Regional Transportation Authority gets .25 percent.

Contact general assignment reporter Leslie Schelat at [email protected].