Jim Sitterly has had enough of rising taxes he's starting a petition drive to put the recent raise in the real estate conveyance fee before the voters.
But Sitterly faces a daunting task. He must get about 2,000 county residents who voted in Ohio's 2006 general election to sign petitions in the next three weeks.
"I'm very confident that if this is put before the voters it will not pass," the Norwalk resident said.
Huron County Commissioners passed a resolution last week to raise the fee, which Sitterly sees as just another tax, from $2 to $3 for every $1,000 of a property's value. That means the buyer of a $100,000 home will now have to pay an extra $100 for a total $300 conveyance fee.
Sitterly said he has only a month from the time the resolution was approved to get the necessary signatures. The resolution was signed on Oct. 25, giving Sitterly until Nov. 25 to turn in his petitions.
"The state is trying to nickel and dime us to death," said Sitterly, "and now the county commissioners are, too. We need to send our commissioners a message.
"I think if they wanted to be really stand-up guys, they should have put it before the voters in these troubling times," he said.
The state allows county commissioners to approve a conveyance fee of up to $4 per thousand. Commissioner Mike Adelman said last week that commissioners checked with several surrounding counties before approving the increase and most are already at the $4 limit.
The fee was $1 in Huron County until 2000, when commissioners raised it to $2.
Sitterly said an increase of 200 percent in just seven years is too much. He said the amount the county has received from the fee has already risen with inflation as homes and property prices have increased.
"This is just one more way to keep the younger people from buying a home in Huron County," Sitterly said.
It will also discourage business, he said, by adding to the cost for a company to come into the county or buy more land to expand operations.
Sitterly said businesses are becoming more competitive and cutting their profit margins to keep going, but facing higher taxes.
"The writings on the wall unemployment, home foreclosures, tax delinquencies," Sitterly said. "That's surely a sign of troubling times. We don't need higher taxes."
Sitterly is going to local Realtors to help collect signatures. He said Mike Myers, Tom Shaffoe and Jay Ewell have already agreed to help with petitions. He plans to contact realtors in other areas such as Bellevue and Willard also. Maple City Saw and Mower on Pleasant Street will also collect signatures, Sitterly said.
The resolution approving the increase said money raised by the increase will be used at the discretion of the commissioners, but Huron County Commissioner Gary Bauer said the commissioners have agreed that 75 percent will go to the Huron County Development Council and 25 percent will be spent on tourism.
"I was initially opposed to the tax," Bauer said. He decided to vote for it after every person at two public hearings supported the tax. Eleven people attended the first public hearing and 15 attended the second.
Adelman said many people attending the meetings were connected either to the county or Norwalk, Willard, New London and Monroeville governments or development boards or agencies, but several private citizens also attended.
Thomas Jarrett, who owns the Norwalk Antique Mall located downtown on Main Street, attended one of the public hearings and came away supporting the increase.
"I think it's going to help Norwalk overall," he said, because the money raised with the increase will be used for tourism and economic development.
"Being a business owner on Main Street, I supported it," he said. "I think it will bring tourism to Norwalk."
Jarrett said he has seen a publication on the turnpikes and other major roads that promotes many attractions in the area, but includes nothing about Norwalk. "I think we need something like that," he said.
He said he advertises in a publication available near Lake Erie and has gotten some response to those ads.
The conveyance fee has brought in about $120,000 per year recently and should collect another $50,000 to $60,000 with the increase.