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County considers extending half-percent sales tax

Clark County commissioners are considering extending a half-percent sales tax scheduled to expire at the end of the year that generates more than $7 million a year.

County Administrator Nathan Kennedy has recommended commissioners extend the tax. Eliminating it would lead to staff and service cuts, he said.

The county will hold public hearings at 10 a.m. Aug. 6 and 10 a.m. Aug. 13 at County Offices, 50 E. Columbus St., in the Fifth Floor Public Chambers where people can give their opinion on the proposed extension.

“We’d definitely be against it,” said Colin Sullivan, manager of Lower Valley Furniture west of Springfield.

Sullivan said that local businesses, especially those that sell higher-price items, need all the advantages they can get to keep shoppers here. Extending the sales tax could have an adverse effect, Sullivan fears.

“Then they’d go out of the county to shop,” he said.

Clark County Commission President Richard Lohnes said commission will vote in October about extending the tax. Extending it does not require a public vote, he added.

The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce has not taken a formal position on the issue, said Kelly Mori, spokeswoman.

The total sales tax paid by consumers in Clark County stands at 7 percent, including the temporary half-percent county commissioners extended in February 2011 for 30 months.

The half-percent sales tax brought in more than $7.1 million last year and is projected to bring in more than $7.3 million this year. If the temporary tax is reduced to a quarter percent, Kennedy projected that the county could be in the red by $770,000 by the end of 2015 and more than $3.7 million by end of 2016.

But if the tax is extended, the county could have a $5.6 million balance in 2014.

If the tax is not extended, the biggest hit would be to county law enforcement, Lohnes said. The tax represents a large chunk of the county’s $35 million general fund budget.

“Without it, it would hurt,” Lohnes said. “There would be some very serious losses of services to county folks.”

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