By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter
MOUNT VERNON — On Thursday, the county commissioners accomplished what they originally set out to do regarding raising the county's sales tax, but it has not been a smooth path to the final result.
Commissioners can raise the sales tax under two sections of the Ohio Revised Code; Knox County has .25 percent available under each section. The commissioners planned to combine the .25 percent available under each section and raise the tax by .50 (½) percent.
However, Brad Cole of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio inaccurately told the commissioners they could only raise it by .40 percent because new state laws require counties to increase the tax in increments of one-tenth rather than one-quarter percent.
“That put us in a bind because we were not going to be able to access the .05 percent on each side,” said County Prosecutor Chip McConville.
Cole told the commissioners, as well as McConville, that the new laws took effect Sept. 29. When McConville reviewed the draft resolutions and researched the new laws using the legislature's LexisNexis system, he, too, found an effective date of Sept. 29.
The commissioners therefore passed resolutions last week raising the sales tax by .40 percent.
In a letter dated Oct. 12, Cole told the commissioners he was in error and that the new laws do not take effect Sept. 29. A temporary law, which was not cross-referenced in the Lexis system, states the one-tenth increment requirement does not take effect until July 1, 2018.
That means the commissioners can, in fact, raise the sales tax by .50 percent.
“The resolutions that we passed increasing it by tenths are not allowable until July 2018, so we have to go back and reset the clock to existing statutes,” said McConville.
The commissioners rescinded the resolutions authorizing the .40 percent increased and passed new resolutions authorizing the .50 percent increase.
“So, we've done what we intended to do,” said Commissioner Teresa Bemiller. “Our intention from the start was to increase each of these [taxes] by one-half percent.”
“It will be giving us what we originally thought we would receive,” said Commissioner Thom Collier. “That puts us at capacity of our sales tax ability.”
The .50 percent increase will generate between $2 million and $2.5 million annually.
“The most interesting thing I've learned through all of this is that people thought the county gets all of the 6.75 percent sales tax,” said Commissioner Roger Reed. “No, we only get 1.4 percent; the rest goes to the state. And of that [1.4 percent], 1 percent goes to 911.”
The commissioners will notify the state tax commissioner on Oct. 25 of their intent to raise the sales tax. The tax will become effective Jan. 1, 2018. The county will start to receive money in March, but the commissioners previously said that they won't see an impact until December 2018.