Summit County officials ask Council to remove Akron arena from sales tax issue

By kristen tomins | staff writer Published:

Summit County officials have asked County Council to approve a measure that would prevent a proposed sales tax increase from funding a University of Akron arena.

On Thursday, Summit County Executive Russ Pry, Sheriff Steve Barry and County Council President Ilene Shapiro announced their plan to rescind two County Council resolutions adopted in June that would have placed a 0.25 percent sales and use tax increase on the November ballot to fund county public safety and capital needs as well as a new arena in downtown Akron.

Instead, at a County Council meeting Monday, officials will ask council to adopt resolutions that will eliminate funding for the arena and instead put the increase on the ballot for public safety, criminal justice and capital needs. The new resolutions would also limit the length of the tax to 10 years, rather than the previously proposed permanent tax.

"Since the adoption of the previous resolutions, the public has informed us that there is not sufficient support among the voters to pass a sales tax issue that includes the arena," Pry said. "As a result, we feel it is best to remove the arena project from this issue and instead focus solely on the county's public safety and capital needs."

Adam Miller, founder of the group Coalition Against the Sales Tax Increase, saidwas glad the arena may be removed; however, he said that won't stop his group from fighting the potential tax increase.

"Our position is still that (the citizens of Summit County) need a break, not an increase," said Miller.

Under the newly proposed resolutions, the additional 0.25 percent sales and use tax would generate an estimated $227 million over the 10-year period. Of that, $102.5 million will go to fund the operation and maintenance of the county jail - an amount that should be sufficient to fund shortfalls at the jail for the next 20 years.

An estimated $68 million will be set aside for replacing the county's 800 MHz emergency radio system, upgrading and consolidating the county's 911 dispatch system and county-owned facility repairs, maintenance and improvements.

The balance of $57 million will go to the county's general fund, of which, 70 percent is spent on public safety and criminal justice functions of the county.

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