Two opponents running for an open county commission seat both put blame on the state for Montgomery County’s recent budget ails but offered differing views on how the shortfall was handled during a candidates’ forum Tuesday.
Doug Barry, a Republican, and Carolyn Rice, a Democrat, said state cuts to local government funds and the ability to collect sales taxes on Medicaid managed care services squeezed the county in recent years.
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Rice, Montgomery County’s treasurer for nearly 12 years, said she agreed with the steps current commissioners took, including raising the retail sales tax rate 0.25 percent to bridge a $9 million shortfall on the horizon for 2019.
“It was not caused by anything Montgomery County did, but you have to deal with it because you have to have a balanced budget every year. So they did the responsible thing,” Rice said. “It went through a whole yearlong process of reviewing all their options where we were and came up with the decision and made the right choice that they would have to increase the sales tax.”
Barry, a Miami Twp. trustee and owner of BarryStaff in Dayton, led a failed petition effort to overturn the sales tax increase. He said raising the sales tax will prove negative for the county.
MORE: Montgomery County sales tax repeal petition drive falls short
“We have to get more people in the tax base, which means we have to increase our population, which means we have to make Montgomery County a destination for people to come live,” Barry said. “The thing that I hear as a Miami Twp. trustee is that we can’t continue to pay more taxes. As people continue to pay higher taxes, they are going to vote with their feet. They are going to pick up and move.”
Barry and Rice also answered questions about jobs, the economy and school funding at the League of Women Voters of the Greater Dayton Region-sponsored forum Tuesday at the Miami Twp. Branch Dayton Metro Library, at 2718 Lyons Rd. A live stream of the entire forum can be viewed on the Ohio Politics Facebook page.
WATCH: Candidates’ forum features county commission hopefuls
Barry and Rice both charged state legislators with inflicting harm on local governments.
“We need to work with our local legislators to get that local government fund reinstituted so we are not constantly going back to the taxpayers,” Barry said. “I know the state balanced the budget on the backs of local governments.”
Rice said Montgomery County taxpayers sent the state more than $470 million last year, and the state sent back only $7 million.
“That’s not a fair deal by any stretch of the imagination,” she said.
MORE: Is it cheaper to buy in the next county? Compare area sales tax rates.
No Republican has won a Montgomery County Commission seat in about a decade. But in recent elections, Democratic incumbents have won with razor-thin margins, leaving Republicans to believe the odds will be better Nov. 6 because Dan Foley, a Democrat, decided to give up his commission seat and run for the Statehouse.
Ohioans have until Oct. 9 to register to vote, and early voting starts on Oct. 10.