Who are the financial hogs in the Stark County government budget in 2010 as compared to 2009?
The Stark County treasurer for one. Up over 21.5 %. That will not make too many Stark Countians happy especially in light of - what some are projecting - to be upwards of $3,000,000 in losses growing out of Treasurer Gary Zeigler's allegation that his former chief deputy Vince Frustaci made off with county funds; whatever the number eventually turns out to be.
Zeigler was clearly asleep at the switch and now has the gall to ask for a budget busting increase (in the sense of the goal of -3.5% of the 2009 budget). If he had any humility about the situation, he would long ago resigned. But no. He asks for more.
The next hog-in-chief? The Stark County Board of Elections (BOE). Up nearly 15% over 2009. The SCPR is particularly unhappy with the structure of BOEs in Ohio. Appointed politicians running our elections in a "cold ward" (Rs versus Ds) fashion. A real democratic irony. Isn't that terrific!
Back to the budget thing.
One simple way the BOE could save significant money is to use its new sophisticated copier to scan in documents frequently accessed by the Stark County public so that the time of BOE employees is not taken up with the repetitive task of retrieving records, copying records and waiting on citizens asking for the documents.
If the BOE was as "citizen friendly" as it should be, it would do the scanning and not only save itself a lot of employee hours that could be used on more productive activities and, at the the same time. save Stark County citizens driving time, gasoline/wear and tear on the family car expense and copy costs.
So now they want more money?
For the SCPR's part, unless and until the county starts doing more "no-brainer" things like the BOE thing, then citizens should be clear that public officials are not getting the message and should turn down any sales tax renewals or requests for increases.
This is where the Stark County judges (Common Pleas Court) could weigh-in on BOE members and help the county image, the efficiency of the BOE, and make the public feel appreciated.
It appears that the judges (particularly Judge Charles Brown) - are the prime movers behind a recently formed task force, headed up by Prosecutor John Ferrero, to look at all aspects of county government so as to position the county to face county voters within a "we've done everything we can to clean up our act," when the county next asks voters to approve a levy.
The SCPR has enormous respect for the judges. The Report believe they - who practice day-in, day-out the impartial administration of justice - are ideally suited to lead the way to a restoration of the Stark County public trust in the county's local institutions of government.
The Report knows that they have plenty on their plate, but they need to take the lead. The courts are trusted by the public. Only the courts have the public stature among all of Stark County government to lead the way back.
Back to the budget, per se.
The next "on-the-next-level financial hog" is Stark County recorder Rick Campbell's office. Up about 9%. Yours truly used to praise Campbell for running the most efficient office in all of Stark County government.
But no more.
A sign that Campbell is slipping was evident when he and his chief deputy Kody Gonzalez (son of Stark County Democratic Party chairman Randy Gonzalez) showed up at a Stark County commissioners' meeting (along with Plain Township trustee Louis Giavasis/also the clerk of courts "title czar," in what The Report believes was an attempt to intimidate yours truly on some blogs that were not to the Campbell's liking.
Another interesting tidbit about the recorder's office. A little over a week ago at a luncheon with an area politician, the politico volunteered that a key recorder's office employee bragged to him that he only "actually" did work in the office about 1 to 2 days. Hmm? Maybe Campbell needs to spend less time trying to push around The Report and more time making sure office employees are giving Stark County taxpayers their due.
Mike Hanke and Rick Flory deserve high marks for their work in cajoling the heads of Stark County departments of government in "for real" quest to meet an overall goal of a 3.5% reduction over 2009. They didn't meet the 3.5%, but they did get to 2%. The blame is not to be placed on Hanke and Flory. It belongs on department heads like Zeigler, Campbell and the "politically appointed" Board of Election members. They are the ones for the Stark County public to get on!
It appears that a renewal will be attempted of the 1/4 of 1% sales tax levy set to expire on June 30, 2011 this November. If it passes, county officials will still be looking at about a 6% decrease in all departments of Stark County government. If it doesn't, you can about double that to the 11/12% range; maybe even more. And don't even ask about 2012. County office holders are looking at cuts in the 30% plus if a renewal doesn't pass.
Just a word about the sheriff. He lost about $700,000 on his request but still a little under his 2009 figure. Swanson was telling county officials that with the cut on request he would have to layoff up to five deputies. But the word at Wednesday's commissioners' meeting was that the sheriff thinks he just might skate through without making any layoffs.
A couple of nights ago, yours truly had a conversation with "one in a position to know" who says that Swanson is sandbagging on the county and that the sheriff's office is in the best condition of all of Stark's departments of government.
The Stark County Political Report has obtained a copy of a letter that commissioners will be sending out to county department heads. Here are some excerpts:
It is not a pretty picture, no?
As the SCPR sees it, Stark County government has a huge job ahead of it to rebuild public trust. Until department elected and appointed officials (in the case of the Stark BOE) are have perceived by the voting public as having "gotten it," there will no new money for the county and probably not even a renewal.
The politicos have had their day abusing the public trust.
Now the public is about to have its say.
Having a sheriff say "poop on the public;" having folks given public jobs to the exclusion of the general public - for no other reason than that they are politically connected, and having elected officials refusing to be accountable to the voting public ARE OVER!
The arrogant ones; those who go to Columbus and spend taxpayer money at the capital city's finest hotels without regard to even getting the taxpayer a government discount; those who refuse to have their public meetings videotaped, those who try to intimidate journalistic opinion/accountability under the cover of office; those who staff public office with their political friends and hire the family members of their politically powerful colleagues are on the brink of "a great awakening!"
Too many Stark County government officials and those of the political subdivisions have run roughshod over the taxpaying public.
Is the public about to say: "enough is enough?"
The pity of all this is that those who will suffer because of the public's growing discontent with the poor, poor quality of all too many Stark government leaders will not be the leaders themselves.
For sure, they will take care of themselves to the bitter end.
No, it will be the ordinary local government workers (those who do not drive a Lexus) who will get no pay raises, have to pay a larger share of their health care cuts, and get laid off before those of their colleagues who have a political connection with the boss.
Why would the ordinary among us support those living "high off the hog" at taxpayer expense?
The answer: they won't. Those days are evaporating very quickly.