The Franklin County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to make a temporary quarter-cent sales tax permanent.
In 2013, the commissioners adopted a quarter-percent sales tax to be collected for a five-year period. That period was originally supposed to end December 31, 2018.
The sales tax increase allowed the county to pay cash for the first phase of a new jail and give money to social programs throughout Franklin County.
Commissioner John O’Grady said the board recognizes it is reneging on a promise it made to the public five years ago.
“My father taught me years ago as a child, you don’t break a commitment. But, you know, we didn’t have a crystal ball back then,” O’Grady said. “We didn’t know that when we entered into this commitment, our partners, and I believe in working very closely with partners. We didn’t know that our partners in federal government, our partners in state government were going to break their commitments to us.”
O’Grady said cuts from federal and state government to local government has left the board with no other choice.
Columbus resident Michael Vincent used the public hearing to express concern about money being used to fund the jail project in Franklin County.
"I’m opposed to the expansion of the jail, because you’re talking about taking steps to reform the jail and provide necessary services, but you haven’t taken the steps to ensure human rights abuses have not been committed," Vincent said.
Franklin County Libertarians Committee Chairman Harold Thomas said it’s unfair of the board to make the tax permanent without taking the issue to voters.
“You may put the sales tax on the ballot for a 5-year renewal," Thomas said. "At least this way, you will keep faith with the taxpayers by giving us the opportunity to decide how our money is to be spent."
Voters can fight the commission’s decision through referendum. That would require almost 30,000 signatures collected from county voters within 45 days.