After withdrawing his support of the $5 permissive tax on registered vehicles last week, Commissioner Fred Zoeller sought alternative methods to generate money to improve safety and economic development in Seneca County, at a Seneca Regional Planning Commission Highway and Transportation Committee meeting Thursday morning.
"As the facts unfolded," said Zoeller, who is the chairman of the highway and transportation committee, "and my hat's off to my fellow commissioners for pointing it out to me and once I realized the $5 permissive tax really was not the fairest way to go because it didn't uniformly affect everyone in the county with that in mind, I had to pull my support away from that."
Zoeller recommended instating two other $5 permissive taxes the county is allowed to enact, stating everyone in the county would contribute to the tax and the county, townships and municipalities all would receive money from it.
"Now everyone pays in, but everyone gets some money out of it," he said. "And it's not geared toward (SR) 53, it's geared toward all county roads."
He said the two $5 taxes would generate $400,000 for the county, $53,000 for municipalities and $120,000 for townships annually, according to the 2009 census.
Zoeller said the county cannot use the money from the permissive taxes to make repairs on state roads, but can make improvements to county roads that intersect state routes, which could be used as the county's contribution toward ODOT projects on state roads.
Townships and municipalities would also get money from the taxes to make repairs on their streets.
County Engineer Mark Zimmerman would be in charge of the funds, Zoeller said.
"Nobody's going to like a tax, but I think it's much clearer," he said. "When I look at the objections (to the permissive tax) that we've had in the past one of the objections is it's not fair, not everyone's paying for it. And I absolutely agree with that; I can't deny that objection. The other one is we're dealing strictly with (SR) 53 and we're not dealing with other issues in the county. This tax resolves both of those issues there."
Zoeller said he will petition commissioners to hold an informational meeting and then commissioners will have two public hearings on the permissive taxes.
"You still have my vow that even though we can't say this is for four years, I will assure you at the end of my term, I will vote to eliminate the tax," he said.
Under the original $5 permissive tax Zoeller proposed - allowed by Ohio Revised Code 4504.02 - 100 percent of the money would go to the county and people living in many municipalities would not be required to pay, due to a tax already imposed by city and village governments.
Zoeller recommended instating the two other permissive tax options allowed under ORC 4504.15 and ORC 4504.16.
If the county approved the tax allowed under ORC 4504.15, 50 percent of the money generated from registered vehicles in municipalities would go to the county and the other half would go to municipalities. And 30 percent of the money from vehicles registered in townships would go to the township, and the county would get 70 percent.
People in Fostoria would not pay this tax due to existing permissive taxes.
If the county approved the permissive tax allowed by ORC 4504.16, the county would get 100 percent of the money generated from vehicles registered in municipalities. And for vehicles registered in townships, 30 percent of the money from the permissive tax would go to townships, and the county would receive 70 percent.
Permissive taxes already in place for townships and municipalities will not be affected, Zoeller said.
The Seneca Regional Planning Commission Highway and Transportation Committee approved supporting the two $5 permissive taxes by a vote of 9-0 with one abstention. Seneca County Auditor Julie Adkins abstained, saying it was her first meeting on the panel.
Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Rich Focht, who is a member of the committee, said he supports the two $5 taxes.
"There's more advantages to $10," Focht said. "There's more money, there's more money to townships and municipalities, it increases our leverage. I don't think there's any alternative. I think we can all agree that we need the money, that we have issues."
"I tried to go as minimal as I could, that's why I supported the $5 one," Zoeller said. "As it unfolded, the regulations that were involved with the $5 tax - it just wasn't fair."