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Government and Politics


Summit County takes the Akron arena out of the sales tax equation
County officials say voters would reject the tax hike for law enforcement if arena funding remained a part of the issue
by WKSU's KEVIN NIEDERMIER


Reporter
Kevin Niedermier
 
Summit County Sherriff Steve Barry (at podium) talks about the need for additional funding for his safety forces; county Executive Russ Pry (seated) announced today the county will take the arena project off its proposed sales tax increase because he believes it would doom the issue in November.
Courtesy of WKYC
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The downtown Akron arena is being removed from the sales tax increase that will appear on Summit County ballots this November. County officials believe the arena funding would have sunk the tax hike, which would also fund safety improvements. As WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports, county officials call it a tough decision based on stark realities

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Summit County voters will still decide on a quarter percent sales tax increase this fall. But all the revenue will be earmarked for much-needed improvements at the county jail, updates to the emergency communication system, capital improvementS to other county properties and pay increases.

County Executive Russ Pry says community sentiment did not support including $161 million to build the arena.

“I got it back from various mayors who are close friends, law enforcement people who were out there. We had a committee and some professional people on there who weighed in in terms of doing the evaluation. We had some polling data that was out there. It was a combination of all these factors that led us to believe that that issue would potentially hurt the public safety part of this.”

Perhaps another way some day
Pry says he still supports building a multi-purpose arena to help stimulate downtown, but now isn’t the time to ask for county tax money to do it. The original plan called for the arena to be built on vacant city-owned property across from Canal Park, the minor league baseball facility. The University of Akron would have operated the arena and its basketball team would have played there.

In a written statement, the university says it understands and respects the county’s decision, and intends to continue working with the county and city on economic development issues.

Law enforcement needs
Summit County Sheriff Steve Berry calls the ballot change a tough decision on the county government’s part, but one that had to be made.

“As a result of the recession and lost revenue in 2009, 30 full-time deputies and 10 civilian employees were laid off from our jail. These workers have not been replaced and will not be replaced until funding is available. Because we have less jail staff, we’ve had to replace inmate programming and increase lockdowns. This creates a very unsafe, a very volatile atmosphere within the Summit County jail.”

We told them so
Summit County Council voted in June to put tax increase -- including the arena--  on the ballot. David Culp is with the Committee to Defeat the Arena Tax. He says the ballot changes echo what his group has been saying all along.

“And yet we hear it today as though it was the first time it was said. If county council had listened to many of us who said the very same things that they’re saying now, we would not have to be here today. ... Instead we had to do their job; county council didn’t do their job so we had to do it for them. They’ll call that democracy; I don’t call that democracy. I call it dishonesty and abdication.”

On board with the new plan
Culp’s group has always supported the tax increase if it were only used for safety improvements, and he says he’ll campaign for the amended version. He adds that he supports the University of Akron’s effort to build a new arena, but the university needs to pay for it and put it on campus property.

The new tax issue will be for 10 years instead of being permanent as the original language called for. It would generate an estimated $225 million. Summit County Council must approve the language before next Thursday’s deadline to get it on the ballot. Council is expected to vote and approve the changes at its meeting Monday.

Listener Comments:

David should be commended for his efforts to "wake up" the politicians of Summit County and the City of Akron.

However, I still don't trust any of them and I assure everyone they will try and find another way for the taxpayers to foot the bill for the University.


Posted by: Steven (Akron) on August 1, 2014 7:08AM
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