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Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Sales tax revenue drops slightly

By Shelley Grieshop
Mercer County sales tax revenue is down 2.5 percent compared to last year although officials say the local area is faring much better than most across the state.
The state of Ohio recently reported sales tax revenue lagging 6 percent this year compared with 2008.
Despite the optimistic news locally, county commissioners told local government officials on Tuesday to keep their belts tightened in order to weather out the ongoing economic storm.
"We're fortunate in a sense," Commissioner Jerry Laffin told the elected and appointed officials who gathered in the conference room at the Central Services Building in Celina. "But we have to be very cautious (and) watch what we're doing."
Mercer County's year-to-date sales tax revenue is down $38,927 from 2008, which was a record year at $4 million, county Auditor Mark Giesige said.
Giesige explained recent numbers are slightly skewed due to a delinquent vendor. Approximately $30,000 was posted on the books in March from a vendor who hasn't reported sales tax revenue the last few months.
The most recently tallied numbers show sales tax revenue for May (which reflects sales incurred two months prior) is down just 0.67 percent or $1,952 from May 2008.
The commissioners thanked the appointed and elected leaders for keeping expenses down and helping keep the county's budget in line. Giesige also applauded the officials for their good fiscal behavior but warned the outlook is uncertain.
"We've got half the year remaining and things could change," Giesige said. "Don't buy anything if you don't absolutely need it."
Giesige predicted a slow recovery locally and asked the dozens of officials in attendance to "be prepared to make cuts again next year."
Laffin said he spoke recently to government leaders in neighboring counties and discovered their fiscal situations were much harder to swallow. Shelby County's sales tax revenue is down 25 percent for the year; Madison County is down 18 percent; and Wyandot dropped 11 percent, he said.
On another positive note, Giesige mentioned that 60 percent of Mercer Countians already have paid their 2009 property tax bills. The news brought comments from officials who debated the severity of the current economic status for local residents and businesses.
The county collects a 1 percent sales tax on all non-food purchases and an additional 0.5 percent tax for funds earmarked for the construction and operation of the new jail being built west of Celina. The total state and local sales tax rate for Mercer and Auglaize counties is 7 percent.
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