Friday, March 12, 2010
UNDERSTANDING THE COUNTY BUDGET: WHO IS FRUGAL & WHO IS NOT?
The only two questions that remain is whether nor not the commissioners will give into the demands of the Stark County Veterans Service Commission ($68,000) and the Stark County sheriff at about $700,000.
The SCPR believes that the commissioners will give the Veterans Service Commission (VSC) its full request for the simple reason that the VSC has a legal right (in the opinion of many - only a court of law can determine for certain) to about $2,000,000 more than it is asking for. VSC Executive Director Robert Toth says the VSC will sue to get the $3,500,000 per annum it is entitled to, if denied its full request. He points out that the VSC has returned about $1,000,000 to the county over the past ten years.
The sheriff may be another matter, though.
The Report did talk with Sheriff Swanson briefly on Thursday (yesterday) and he said that he is set to meet with a commissioners' office representative at Monday morning at 8:30 AM. However, he said there is not much to talk about because he has no room to negotiate down from his request.
If the VSC and the sheriff's department "stick to their guns," then there will be a ripple effect throughout the remaining departments of Stark County governments that will have to share in the nearly 14% in additional cuts that will have to be made to accommodate the veterans and the sheriff's operations.
An example of an agency that the commissioners will make additional cuts, if necessary, would be one like the Stark County recorder. The thinking is that Stark County citizens will be willing to take less in administrative services than in less law enforcement.
One idea for the additional cuts in non-critical departments of government is to budget work week cuts to four (4) days for non-essential departments. Obviously, the departments could choose not to cut the department's work week, but then would have to make up the lesser amount of county general fund revenue by applying cuts in other areas of the department's operations.
The target for cuts for each and every aspect of Stark County general revenue fund recipient departments was 3.5%. The Stark County prosecutor hit 3.5% right on the money.
The star of cuts is going to be the commissioner's office itself which shows that County Administrator Mike Hanke and his assistant Rick Flory and the commissioners are not hypocrites on the issue of cuts.
The chief offender against the targeted standard of everyone taking a 3.5% on average cut is the Stark County Board of Elections which the SCPR computes to be getting about a 48% increase.
A note is in order at this point in this discussion on the budget and percentages of increase/decrease over "actual 2009."
The spreadsheet provided to the SCPR had a formula calculation glitch between the "organizational total" and the "department total," and, therefore, the percentage of increase "actual 2009" may be off somewhat.
The 2010 budget does include a carryover of about $5.5 million in a budget stabilization ("rainy day") fund. It is possible that commissioners will take the $768,000 that the VSC and the sheriff's department say they must have additional between them (over what the projected numbers show), from the budget stabilization. Such a maneuver appears to the SCPR to be unlikely.
The 2010 budget will be as good as it gets over the next several years. In 2011 a 1/4 of one percent sales tax will end and, if not renewed, will bring a financial crisis to Stark County local government finances - the likes of which - have not been seen in many, many years; if ever.