An outspoken and concerned crowd attended Grove's City Council meeting on Tuesday. Those who attended the meeting were given the opportunity to discuss the upcoming election for the Delaware County Sales Tax Proposition to pay for the $13.5 million lawsuit settlement.
Past city council member Larry Parham and past Mayor Gary Trippensee took the podium to present findings of research and their opinions on the proposed tax. Many in the audience asked questions and voiced their concerns.
Parham presented a comparison document he said was based on the average Delaware County resident. Based on his findings, Parham said the average resident in Delaware County spends approximately $91.25 per year on taxable items. Multiplied by the 17 years commissioners believe it could take to pay the $13.5 million, residents will spend $1,551.25 in increase sales tax if the proposition passes.
If residents instead choose to pay for the lawsuit out of property taxes over three years, Parham's figures show property (ad valorem) taxes will increase by 18% for the three years. Again, using his theory of averages, this is based on the statistics that the average home value in Delaware County is $100,000. His research states that a resident with a home valued at the average $100,000, over three years will pay a total of $558.90.
Parham believes it is important for each resident to look at their own figures and make a decision on not only what is best for themselves. "Look not only how it will affect you personally, but how it will affect the city, the county and state," said Parham.
An example Parham gave was that if property taxes increase, schools will suffer. Councilman Ed Trumbull agreed. "It's a mindset. People will say I'm not going to agree this bond because I already pay for this," said Trumbull.
On the other side of the proposition, if the sales tax increase passes it will hurt business and retailers. The City of Grove will pay the brunt of the increase, City Manager Bruce Johnson pointed out, because Grove pays for approximately $200,000 of the $300,000 dollars the county receives in sales tax.
Parham asked the city council to take a stand and encourage people to vote no on the sales tax. There was no decision made.
Past Mayor Gary Trippensee suggested that part of the problem is "we keep hearing different figures," he said.
Councilmembers invited Trippensee and Parham to continue their investigations and present their findings again at future city council meeting. Parham said he would like to encourage a bigger forum next time and extend an invitation to County Commission Doug Smith to attend and help answer questions.
The county lawsuit stems from allegations from several inmates in the Delaware County Jail who were allegedly sexually harassed and possibly raped by sheriff officials. County Commissioners settled for $13.5 million on the advise of their legal staff.
See the print edition of The Grove Sun for more information and figures from Tuesday's city council meeting.