The Stark County Political Report has learned that commissioners may vote today to cut Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson $700,000 short on his "requested" budget funding for 2010. However, the Stark County Veterans Service Commission will definitely gets its fully requested budget.
Swanson (who met with Commissioner Steve Meeks and County Administrator Mike Hanke on Monday morning) has let it be known that if the cut occurs, then he may be left with no alternative but to cut a wing of the jail. Apparently, if Swanson makes good on the closing, it will leave Stark County courts with a huge dilemma in terms of finding prisoner space for sentenced offenders.
A source in a position to know says that closing a wing of the jail would not necessarily mean a release of inmates. A more likely scenario is that "non-violent" offenders would not be given jail time because of cramped quarters in the remaining space at the jail.
So Stark Countians should expect a spirited debate among commissioners today as to whether or not to make the budget cut.
In the end, this is a game of "brinkmanship," the SCPR believes, Sheriff Swanson will prevail on in the end. Commissioner Todd Bosley has already committed to objecting to the cut. Would he vote not to approve the budget, if Ferguson and Meeks opted to cut the sheriff. Probably not.
The Report has also learned that quick on the heels of the budget approval this year will be communication from the commissioners to Stark County department heads to start planning now for a 5% to 10% budget cuts in 2011.
The SCPR is beginning to believe that within the bowels of the Stark County commissioners office, discussions are underway to place a sales tax issue on the ballot in November, 2010. If one takes too much from the public discussion at commissioners' meeting, it seems too obvious that there will not be an additional tax, but a renewal of the June, 2011 expiring 1/4th of 1% sales tax.
However, such talk may be a feint and what might well materialize is a sales tax specific for the operation of the county jail which represents 1/3rd of the county budget.
Think about it. If commissioners could get the voting public to buy into to supporting the jail with a direct levy, then that would free up about $16 million for the rest of the Stark County general fund budgeting.
Such a maneuver would solve county budgeting problems in a hurry.
And voters would not even have realized they have been "slipped a mickey!"