6,500 sign petitions against taxes

By Mike Sever Record-Courier staff writer Published:

On Friday, Keith Eckmeyer and other opponents of the tax turned over to Portage County Auditor Janet Esposito two petitions containing more than 6,500 signatures each against two $5 license fee hikes that would fund road and bridge repairs in the county.

County commissioners approved two resolutions last month that would raise permissive license fees by up to $10, effective Jan. 1, 1999. The fees are projected to raise $869,000 annually for the county engineer's road and bridge maintenance program.

Brian Tirbovich of Atwater initiated the petition drive to put the question to the voters and soon enlisted the help of Eckmeyer, a Kent resident who heads the E-Check Coalition. The effort was aImed at getting signatures from registered voters to put the tax hikes to a referendum by voters.

To get the referendums on the ballot, the signatures of at least 4,273 registered county voters will have to be certified for each of the petitions.

Eckmeyer said that the two petitions turned in Friday had 6,571 and 6,574 signatures each.

The petitions will be available for public inspection for 10 days at the county auditor's office in Ravenna. After that, Esposito, who is charged by law with accepting such petitions, will turn them over to the county board of elections, which will have 10 days to verify that the signatures are registered county voters.

Gerry Lewis, director of the elections office, said the staff will review each of the two petitions. Signatures may be invalidated if the person is not a registered county voter; if the address on the petition is not the same as where the person is registered as a voter; or if the elections office determines that the signature is not by that person.

Petition signatures will be compared with samples contained in the election office computer files from registration cards and from recent elections.

Eckmeyer said Friday that, at the height of the two-week campaign, the group had 51 circulators with more than 100 sets of petitions throughout the county.

"This really couldn't have gotten done without the help of the circulators and the KMart in Kent, the Walmart in Streetsboro, Marc's in Aurora and Sparkle Market in Ravenna," he said.

As part of the petition drive, a total of 89 voter registration cards were turned in by petition circulators, according to the election office.

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