Sales tax repeal effort mounted after public hearings, passage

Published: Thursday, July 12, 2018 @ 12:26 PM
Updated: Friday, July 13, 2018 @ 1:47 PM

After winning primaries on Tuesday, Carolyn Rice, a Democrat, and Republican Doug Barry will face each other in November for an open Montgomery County Commission seat. SUBMITTED
After winning primaries on Tuesday, Carolyn Rice, a Democrat, and Republican Doug Barry will face each other in November for an open Montgomery County Commission seat. SUBMITTED

The Republican candidate for Montgomery County commissioner is now leading a referendum effort, that if successful, would place the repeal of a recent county sales tax increase on the same ballot with his name in November.

But Doug Barry’s opponent, Democrat Carolyn Rice, questions why her challenger didn’t register complaints earlier against the sales tax increase — also unopposed by major business groups — when debated in the public sphere before approved last month.

FIRST REPORT: Group wants to overturn Montgomery County sales tax increase at ballot box

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Barry says the additional 0.25 percent sales tax was pushed through without citizen support.

“The county commissioners passed this without getting a vote of the people at a time we are in a good recovery period and there’s a lot of positive things coming out of Dayton and Montgomery County,” Barry said. “We don’t want to see that stopped by an increase in sales tax.”

The original organizers handed over the petition drive to Barry, owner of BarryStaff in Dayton, who faces Rice for an open county commission seat. Rice is currently Montgomery County treasurer.

County Commissioner Dan Foley is not running for re-election and is running for an Ohio House seat.

To put the referendum on the ballot, Barry and volunteer petition circulators have until July 26 to get 14,583 signatures.

“It’s all-hands-on-deck for the next 14 days to get the signatures,” said Barry, also a Miami Twp. trustee.

RELATED: Montgomery County approves sales tax increase

Rice said Barry and others have every right to put the issue on the ballot, but said overturning the sales tax increase, set to kick in Oct. 1, would harm the county in multiple ways and lead to cuts to multiple programs including those supporting the arts, the criminal justice system and economic development funds including Economic Development/Government Equity grants that assist businesses to expand and bring jobs to the region.

The repeal effort was first led by two former Montgomery County Republican Party chairs, Greg Gantt and Rob Scott, who prepared the necessary paperwork and filed it Tuesday with the county elections board and auditor.

Rice said those working to overturn the sales tax increase remained mute during months of budget discussions, at a public informational meeting and two required public hearings.

“There was a process over a year and it was publicized and I did not see any of these individuals at those meetings,” she said. “And I know a lot of people showed up.”

MORE: Barry wins GOP county commission primary; Rice takes Democratic race

Barry, who announced his candidacy in January and won a May primary, did attend the second public hearing on June 26 — before commissioners approved the tax increase — but did not provide public comment. Nine others spoke; just one opposed the tax hike.

“As any leader in any situation, the first thing you have to do is assess,” Barry said. “I didn’t see at that point in time it was right for me to get up and talk because I was still assessing what the situation was.”

Barry had “a great opportunity to voice his concerns before a vote was taken,” Rice said.

The additional sales tax — projected to bring in $19.1 million annually — will squeeze Montgomery County businesses and drive consumers outside county lines to shop, Barry said.

“A lot of local businesses … it’s going to hurt them competitively because a lot of these programs they have running right now have been quoted at a certain price,” Barry said. “Now this is going to cost them more to do this because of the sales tax they are going to have to pay.”

Rice said representatives from the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Dayton Development Coalition, the region’s major business and industry advocates, were included in a five-year strategic budget planning process that produced the plan.

“The business groups were involved, they supported it,” Rice said.

RELATED: Montgomery County faces $9M revenue loss

During the final public hearing, top leaders of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance and the Dayton Art Institute voiced support for the tax increase as well as from the business community including Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition and a member of the county’s Five-Year Financial Advisory Committee.

Hoagland said the loss of county economic development funding — a near certain outcome without the tax increase — would put the brakes on efforts to help companies expand.

“Now is the time to not step back, but to double-down. We are really on the cusp of something great in the Dayton region,” Hoagland said. “We have to have resources available to allow them to help make decisions to stay and grow in Montgomery County.”

MORE: Is it cheaper to buy in the next county? Compare area sales tax rates.

Gantt, an attorney from Oakwood, said large business organizations such as the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Dayton Development Coalition sometimes lose touch with concerns of the region’s smaller businesses.

“The difference of pennies on every product is the difference between profit and loss,” Gantt said. “And when you are in that big macro level, I don’t think you see or appreciate that sometimes.”

ELECTION 2018

As this year’s election takes shape, our reporters will bring you the news you need on local tax issues and how they will impact you.

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Sen. Brown makes case for drug-screening equipment for police during Dayton visit

Published: Sunday, July 15, 2018 @ 12:26 PM
Updated: Sunday, July 15, 2018 @ 12:26 PM

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, joined police in downtown Dayton on Sunday to talk about new legislation that could help put advanced drug screening devices in the hands of local officers.

Police officers across the nation may soon have access to advanced screening equipment that can identify drugs even through some packaging.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, joined police in downtown Dayton on Sunday to talk about new legislation that could help put advanced drug screening devices in the hands of local officers, protecting them from exposure to dangerous substances.

“It can save lives,” Brown said.

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The Providing Officers With Electronic Resources (POWER) act, is cosponsored by Brown and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. If passed, the bill would give police departments access to grant funding to purchase the screening devices, which can cost upward of $10,000.

Brown said the legislation was similar to the INTERDICT act, which was signed into law earlier this year. That legislation made more drug screening devices available to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Brown said law enforcement officials reached out to him after INTERDICT was passed to see about getting access to such equipment, which Brown said quickly displays results and could help address a backlog of untested drugs in labs.

Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said that overdose deaths were down so far in 2018, as was the police usage of Narcan, a drug that can counteract overdoses. As of June 28, 128 overdose deaths were recorded by Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County so far this year. In 2017, the total for the whole year was 566.

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Biehl said that while the trends may be down, it doesn’t mean the crisis is over. Exposure to dangerous drugs such as fentanyl is still a risk to police officers, he said, and the screening devices could help police officers.

“Difficult work is yet ahead of us,” Biehl said.

Fentanyl in particular can be dangerous to handle, and causes more deaths. According to police data, 84 percent of the people who died of overdose in Dayton in 2017 used drugs containing fentanyl or carfentanil, both powerful opioids.

Just coming in physical contact with drugs that contain fentanyl can cause on overdose: in 2017, an East Liverpool Ohio police officer suffered an overdose after he came into contact with the substance during a traffic stop.

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Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine previously warned officers against handling or even field testing fentanyl.

Officials have previously misidentified drugs, even after field testing them. In June, DeWine and a local sheriff announced they had seized what they thought was $3.4 million worth of fentanyl.

DeWine said at the time was enough fentanyl to “kill every man, woman and child in the Miami Valley.” The seized drugs later turned out to be cocaine.

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Miami Twp. trustees reject changes to allow new homes near Dayton Mall

Published: Tuesday, July 10, 2018 @ 4:19 PM
Updated: Wednesday, July 11, 2018 @ 7:38 AM

A plan to build 82 homes near the Dayton Mall in Miami Twp. was rejected by trustees last year in a meeting that drew nearly 40 people. A new plan is up for a vote today, July 10, 2018. NICK BLIZZARD/STAFF
A plan to build 82 homes near the Dayton Mall in Miami Twp. was rejected by trustees last year in a meeting that drew nearly 40 people. A new plan is up for a vote today, July 10, 2018. NICK BLIZZARD/STAFF

UPDATE @ 9:25 p.m.:

Miami Twp. trustees voted 2-1 Tuesday night to deny changes to move forward a plan for 81 homes near the Dayton Mall.

Largely citing traffic concerns, trustees Doug Barry and Donald Culp rejected a motion to approve a change that would have permitted the Rivendell project to go forward.

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The vote — not supported by trustee board President John Morris — came after a two-hour public hearing on the proposal by Zengel Construction and Ryan Homes.

It was the trustees’ third rejection of the housing plan by Zengel and Ryan.

“I think nothing significantly has changed” from previous proposals in addressing traffic concerns, Barry said.

RELATED: New homes plan near Dayton Mall wins commission approval

Zengel was seeking a major modification to a preliminary plan adopted in 2007 to about 31 acres just east of Ohio 741 and north of the mall.

FIRST REPORT

A revised plan to build more than 80 homes near the Dayton Mall will be considered by Miami Twp. trustees tonight.

A change that would allow the construction of about 80 homes on 31.7 acres north of mall and just east of Ohio 741 — a plan in May recommended for approval by the township zoning commission — has been requested by Zengel Construction.

Specifically, Zengel is seeking a major modification to the preliminary development plan approved in 2007 for the project, known as Rivendell.

Two previous proposals involving Ryan Homes as the developer have been rejected by Miami Twp. trustees.

The homes would average 1,600 square feet and the development would include more than 6 acres of open space, township records show.

RELATED: Miami Twp. marks 42 acres near Austin Landing

Prior efforts for similar applications were denied by the township in 2017 – one in the spring and another in the fall. The effort denied last September by township trustees had earlier won unanimous support of the zoning commission.

Trustees voted the plan down after residents of the Vienna Park subdivision built by Zengel said they feared the negative effects the development would have on traffic, worsening road conditions and drainage, among other issues.

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Group wants to overturn Montgomery County sales tax increase at ballot box

Published: Tuesday, July 10, 2018 @ 12:48 PM
Updated: Tuesday, July 10, 2018 @ 5:43 PM

Consumers are shown at the Dayton Auto Show earlier this year. Montgomery County leaders approved increasing the sales tax here, but some residents want the issue on the ballot. AMY ROLLINS/STAFF
Consumers are shown at the Dayton Auto Show earlier this year. Montgomery County leaders approved increasing the sales tax here, but some residents want the issue on the ballot. AMY ROLLINS/STAFF

Two former chairmen of the Montgomery County Republican Party are spearheading an effort to overturn a Montgomery County retail sales tax increase approved last month by county commissioners, all Democrats.

Both Greg Gantt and Rob Scott say the tax increase vote by the three commissioners took many in the business community by surprise.

“Most businesses don’t know about it yet … It’s not something the commission put before the voters,” said Scott, a Kettering city councilman. “So what this referendum is doing is giving that option to the voters. If the voters want this sales tax increase, then that’s on the voters.”

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RELATED: Montgomery County approves sales tax increase

Montgomery County Administrator Joe Tuss in February first recommended the increase to county commissioners after a five-year budget review process showed the county would be required to cut a number of programs following the loss of $9 million in Medicaid managed care sales tax from the state.

After a public informational meeting and two required public hearings, Montgomery County commissioners voted 3-0 in June to approve a 0.25 percent sales tax expected to generate $19.1 million annually for the county’s general fund. The sales tax increase will go into effect Oct. 1, before the Nov. 6 general election, the first opportunity to repeal the tax.

RELATED: Could you pay more sales tax? Meeting draws praise, complaint

Two other county residents’ names, Thomas A. Routsong and Marissa M. Walters, also appeared on the documents filed Tuesday with the Montgomery County Auditor and the Montgomery County Board of Elections, steps required to put a referendum to county voters in November.

A committee being formed to roll back the sales tax increase has less than a month to collect 14,583 valid signatures within a month to get the measure on the ballot.

“The timing of this really puts us in a box,” said Gantt, an attorney who lives in Oakwood. “It’s a very short window to go after the signatures and do something about it.”

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

The tax increase will put Montgomery County at a disadvantage competing with neighboring counties, across state lines and internationally, said Scott, also a regional administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration for the Great Lakes Region.

“A sales tax at this point is probably not in the best interest of the business community in Montgomery County,” Scott said. “The moment I tell a business owner that’s going to be affected by it, they’re not too happy.”

Programs that had been on the county chopping block before the sales tax increase was approved included Preschool Promise, arts and youth jobs programs, criminal justice programs that steer people from jail, as well as Economic Development/Government Equity (ED/GE) grants that help attract and expand businesses.

“We’ve looked under every rock. We looked everywhere to try to get us through this,” Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge said during the vote last month.

“My fellow commissioners and I unanimously approved an increase to the sales tax because it is essential for the future success of our citizens and community. The additional revenue will allow us to strategically invest in job creation, workforce training, opportunities for youth, criminal justice, and quality of life, while maintaining our strong tradition of efficient and effective government operations,” Dodge said in a statement on Tuesday.

MORE: Is it cheaper to buy in the next county? Compare area sales tax rates.

While an imperfect measure — because people make purchases in other counties and vice versa — the average additional cost to each person in Montgomery County works out to about $36 more a year. After the tax kicks in, the county will receive on average a new total of about $182 in sales taxes annually for every man, woman and child in the county.

Scott said no outside group or money is driving the petition effort that will likely involve 100-200 volunteers going door-to-door between now and Aug. 8.

“It’s going to take a lot of sweat equity to get it done, but I’m very optimistic,” Scott said. “Tax increases are never popular. If it gets on the ballot, which I’m more than confident it will, it’s not going to take much to market it to the voting populous.”

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Sen. Sherrod Brown wants EPA to hold town hall over Dayton water concerns

Published: Monday, July 09, 2018 @ 6:00 PM
Updated: Monday, July 09, 2018 @ 6:00 PM


            Dayton Skyline from Deeds Point, June 2009.
Dayton Skyline from Deeds Point, June 2009.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown wants the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a town hall meeting in Dayton to address concerns about toxic chemicals and the safety of the city’s water.

The EPA announced it will hold meetings in communities impacted by pollution from toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), but Dayton was not on the list of cities.

RELATED: New study shows chemicals could be bigger threat to Dayton water

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“I have heard from constituents from Dayton, Ohio, and surrounding communities who are concerned about PFAS contamination at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB), and I urge you to include an event in the region this summer,” Senator Brown wrote in a letter to the EPA.

In June, Brown and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) helped secure the release of a draft federal study regarding the toxicity of substances in this family of chemicals. According to recent news reports, the EPA had been blocking the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from releasing the study of PFAS chemicals.

RELATED: Water quality expert: Dayton chemical concerns demand monitoring, attention

Last month, a new round of testing at a Dayton water plant shows potentially dangerous compounds were found for the third straight month in water piped to about 400,000 people, but the levels are not rising.

Results from May tests for “PFAS” in treated water were found at a level of 10.5 parts per trillion, similar to the 12.5 ppt detected in March and 7 ppt in April, according to the Dayton Water Department.

RELATED: Chemicals found in local water prompt new alerts to customers

Here’s a copy of the letter Brown sent to the EPA:

The Honorable Andrew Wheeler

Acting Administrator

Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20460

Dear Acting Administrator Wheeler:

In March, as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement that it would hold a National Leadership Summit to begin developing strategies for addressing pollution from Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), the agency shared its intention to hold meetings in communities that have been impacted by PFAS. The intent of these meetings would be to discuss how EPA can best support existing mitigation efforts at the state, local, and tribal level. I have heard from constituents from Dayton, Ohio, and surrounding communities who are concerned about PFAS contamination at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB), and I urge you to include an event in the region this summer.

For decades, Department of Defense facilities – including WPAFB near Dayton – used firefighting foams containing Perfluorooctance Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA). In 2016, the Air Force began phasing out these legacy foams, to be replaced by a foam with a simpler chemical structure. While I applaud the Air Force’s efforts to reduce the harmful impacts of firefighting foams, one of the most alarming chemical characteristics of PFAS is its persistence in the environment and in our bodies. This persistence means that PFAS contamination can continue to pose a threat to our drinking water for years after its last release.

Contamination at WPAFB is well-documented. In 2016, the base shut down two of its drinking water wells when samples showed that they contained 200 and 700 parts per trillion of PFAS respectively. This far exceeds the EPA’s established health advisory of 70 parts per trillion. The base brought the two wells back online only after building a $2.7 million water treatment facility.

While drinking water for base personnel is being treated, the surrounding communities are still at risk. The City of Dayton has shut down drinking water wells at Huffman Dam because of concerns about a contamination plume approaching from the base. While testing of the city’s tap water has shown that it is safe to drink, the contamination plume continues to migrate away from WPAFB and toward the city. In fact, the City of Dayton’s Department of Water is investigating methods to treat water from contaminated wells and make it safe to drink. The city has announced that it intends to seek compensation from the Air Force for these treatment efforts.

WPAFB has already taken significant action to protect its more than 27,000 service members and civilian employees from PFAS water contamination, and the City of Dayton is searching for solutions to prevent exposure in the community. As the EPA holds national listening and working sessions to inform its PFAS management plan, the longstanding ties between the City of Dayton and WPAFB present a unique opportunity to establish a national model of cooperation between Department of Defense sites and their surrounding communities affected by PFAS contamination.

I look forward to an EPA listening session in Ohio.

Sincerely,

Senator Sherrod Brown

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