By Alex Woodring

Staff Writer

awoodring@putnamsentinel.com


PUTNAM COUNTY - Putnam County continued its steady economic growth with another increase in sales tax collection in April.

According to a report from Putnam County Auditor Robert L. Benroth, collection of the county's 1.5 percent permissive sales tax saw an increase over the same month one year ago. April 2013 collections, which reflect sales made in February, were up 5.7 percent over collections for April 2012.

The permissive sales tax collections show the amount of retail sales in the county which have been showing steady growth. Total yearly collections have grown the past two years and are on track to continue the trend. Total yearly collections for 2012 grew five percent over 2011. Year-to-date (Jan. 2013 to April 2013) the county has seen an increase of 2.3 percent over the same period a year ago and 11.7 percent over the same period two years ago.

The trend in increased sales tax collection will slow, however, when the county's permissive sales tax percentage returns to 1.25 percent starting January 2014. The county raised the tax to 1.5 percent five years ago in order to pay off county debt. Now, however, the county joins a small list of counties in Ohio with $0 in debt. According to Putnam County Commissioner Vince Schroeder, the county has saved approximately $1.5 million in interest.

"When the financial crisis hit we raised the tax a quarter percent," said Schroeder. "Because we did that, we were able to pay off the debt and save money on interest we would have had to pay."

With the debt paid, the commissioners agreed to cut the 1.5 percent tax by a quarter percent.

"We said we would go back down once the debt was paid off and we are going to," said Schroeder. "We are really happy with were the county is financially.

The tax cut was approved earlier this year.

In the last year and four months, collections have seen an increase from the previous months 10 out of 16 months.

Total collections for 2011 were $4,715,283.65 and $4,967,018.52 for 2012. Total collections year to date are for 2013 is $1,677,463.65.

The payoff of debt can also be attributed to the sweeping 15 percent budget cut.

"When the economy took a bad turn, the only fair way to make cuts was to have all departments take a 15 percent cut," said Benroth. "No one likes to make cuts but you have to do what you have to."

The county's rise in sales and lack of debt have Benroth optimistic.

"All departments have worked together and because of that our county is sitting pretty good," said Benroth.