Montgomery County could raise sales tax to plug $9M budget loss

Montgomery County commissioners are being asked to consider increasing the retail sales tax to address a 2019 budget shortfall.

The Montgomery County administrator is recommending commissioners consider the increase to prevent cuts to programs that help fuel economic development efforts, offer arts and job opportunities for youth and fund criminal justice programs that save money by keeping people out of jail.

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Montgomery County Administrator Joe Tuss told a Five-Year Financial Advisory Committee that an additional 0.25 percent sales tax would generate about $19.3 million annually, during a meeting Monday.

“We really have a revenue problem,” said Tuss, who also warned that discretionary programs would still face cuts.

The potential tax increase would generate more than a $9 million gap the county is immediately trying to bridge.

Officials, however, cited rising health care costs, new state requirements that the county house certain convicted felons, the need to purchase voting machines and other costs coupled with inflation that they said will still leave the county in a bind within the five-year budget plan.

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Montgomery County has collected a retail sales tax of 1 percent since 1989. If an increase is approved by county commissioners, while an imperfect measure, the cost per person in Montgomery County is calculated to be $36 more a year for a total of $182.

It’s uncertain how much support will be behind the proposal on the County Commission, which is losing $9 million in revenue primarily from managed care sales taxes.

County Commissioner Dan Foley said a potential retail sales tax increase needs to be weighed throughout the community.

“I’m not close to making a decision right now,” he said. “I think the question of what the impact is on the business climate is something we need to know before I make a decision.”

RELATED: $9M shortfall: Montgomery County faces program cuts, employee wage reductions

Phil Parker, president and CEO of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the planning committee, said the county needs to have conversations with other local governments — including Dayton — about how to consolidate services.

“Sooner or later we better get serious in this community about that because we can’t just keep spending the way we are spending if we are going to ask for more tax increases,” Parker said.

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