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Franklin County Sales Tax To Be 2nd Highest In Ohio

County Commissioners approved a sales tax hike this morning that puts Franklin County at the top in the 18-county central Ohio region. They say it is necessary due state funding cuts and more demand for services. But as WOSU reports critics say the move could have been avoided. Franklin County Commissioners had a laundry list of reasons to justify increasing the county’s sales tax to 7.5 percent, the second highest in the state. “We have had to sustain very significant cuts,â€? Commissioner Paula Brooks said. Commissioner Paula Brooks noted $41 million a year in state cuts. She noted the county’s population is up 20 percent. And poverty is up 24 percent. And the county needs more money to stimulate the economy. “We want to focus on bringing good jobs to Franklin County,â€? Brooks added. Commissioners allowed public comment before the vote, but it seemed from their own statements the decision was made. “We must take [your comments] into consideration,â€? Commissioner Marilyn Brown note. “But you all need to know that we have more than your slice of the pie to listen to.â€? As it turns out nobody spoke against the tax hike. The speakers, comprised of business leaders and county employees, praised commissioners for keeping the county afloat during the recession, and they gave their own reasons why a tax hike is needed. Franklin County’s coroner Jan Gorniak, described an abysmal morgue. “Often times we are overrun and must leave bodies at the hospital until room becomes available. In case of a mass disaster, there’s no room for expansion or emergency holding areas,â€? Gorniak said. “The current building and location has exceeded its lifetime.â€? Half of the increase is a 5-year temporary tax that will pay for a new morgue as well as a new jail, water lines and other things. The other half of the increase is permanent and will be used for operating expenses and an economic development effort. In all, the sales tax increase will generate an expected $100 million a year. A conservative think tank says the tax hike is unnecessary. Greg Lawson is a policy analyst at the Buckeye Institute. He’s also running for Columbus City Council. Lawson said increasing the sales tax will hurt the local economy and could drive away businesses. “You inch up your taxes, and your combined taxes of all of these, and eventually you’re starting to talk about decisions people are going to make to locate outside the county, to locate to other areas," Lawson said. The county sales tax comes on top of a recent increase in the state sales tax, and Lawson added Ohioans are tax fatigued. “We have a Columbus school levy that’s coming on line. If that were to pass that’s going to be another 9 mills on property taxes in Columbus. A lot of the residents in Columbus will be paying the Franklin County sales tax. And you just had the sales tax at the state level by a .25 of a percent," he added. Franklin County Administrator Don Brown estimates an average family will pay an extra $59 in taxes for the first five years of the increase. Larger purchases such as cars or household appliances would be affected most.