Summit County officials say sales tax increase will not be used for Akron arena

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If residents approve a Summit County sales tax increase this fall, the revenue will not be used for a downtown Akron arena, as originally announced.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Summit County Executive Russ Pry, Sheriff Steve Barry and County Council President Ilene Shapiro announced their plan to rescind two County Council resolutions adopted in June that would have placed a 0.25 percent sales and use tax increase on the November ballot to fund county public safety and capital needs as well as a new arena in downtown Akron.

Instead, at the upcoming Aug. 4 Council meeting, these officials will ask County Council to adopt resolutions that will eliminate funding for the arena and instead put the additional 0.25 percent sales and use tax on the ballot for public safety, criminal justice and capital needs, a news release stated. The new resolutions would also limit the length of the tax to 10 years, rather than the previously proposed permanent tax.

"Since the adoption of the previous resolutions, the public has informed us that there is not sufficient support among the voters to pass a sales tax issue that includes the arena," said Pry. "As a result, we feel it is best to remove the arena project from this issue and instead focus solely on the county's public safety and capital needs. My office, the Sheriff and the County Council have always placed the public's safety as our top priority - and that priority is driving our decision today."

Under the newly proposed resolutions, the additional 0.25 percent sales and use tax would generate an estimated $227 million over the 10-year period. Of that, $102.5 million will go to fund the operation and maintenance of the County Jail -- an amount that should be sufficient to fund shortfalls at the jail for the next 20 years. An estimated $68 million will be set aside for replacing the county's 800 MHz emergency radio system, upgrading and consolidating the county's 9-1-1 dispatch system and county-owned facility repairs, maintenance and improvements. The balance of $57 million will go to the County's general fund, of which, 70 percent is spent on public safety and criminal justice functions of the county. Of the funds raised under the new proposal, 92.5 percent will go to public safety, criminal justice and capital needs, while only 7.5 percent will go to general government administration.

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