Part of the argument Russ Pry and others make in pushing for a sales tax increase is that Summit County has managed well its operation. The county executive argues that the call for new revenue follows years of belt-tightening and stretching dollars, the need now real.
All of the additional revenue won’t go to county operations. Roughly one-third will cover the construction of an arena in downtown Akron. What the executive rightly can claim is that Summit joins Stark County as the two counties in Ohio with the lowest share of the sales tax — 0.5 percent — devoted to operating county government. County voters have approved an equal sum for the Metro Regional Transit Authority.
There may be room to push and pull about whether public transportation should have that large of an amount. That doesn’t change the essential point: The county has kept its portion of the sales tax relatively low.
Currently, Summit matches 22 of the state’s 88 counties with an overall sales tax rate of 6.75 percent or lower. Add one-quarter of a percentage point, and 51 counties still would have a higher rate. Of the six largest counties, only Hamilton would have a lower rate, at 6.75 percent.
That isn’t an argument for a tax increase. It is a part of the foundation upon which to build one. It also matters that the governor and state lawmakers have been busy easing the state tax burden and reducing the flow of state dollars to local governments in doing so. It figures then that local officials would look eventually to make up portions of the difference. Ultimately, they must persuade voters that they have credible plans for putting the new money to good use.