Thursday, August 26, 2010
STARK PROSECUTOR IS OUT OF MONEY FOR THE 4TH QUARTER 2010. COMMISSIONERS AGREE TO TAKE $181,245.08 OUT OF "RAINY DAY FUND." THIS AFTER THE FUND TOOK A $2.9 PLUS HIT ON MISSING FUNDS FROM STARK TREASURY. THE FIRST SIGNS OF A COUNTY IN FINANCIAL CRISIS?
It seemed like yesterday's Stark County commissioners weekly meeting was going to be really toned down from what the commissioners have been experiencing lately with the Stark County treasury situation.
And it was until Stark County Prosecutor office Chief Counsel John Kurtzman interrupted Commissioner Bosley (president of the Board of Stark County Commissioners) as he was to pound the gavel on the table adjourning the meeting.
What an interruption it was!
Prosecutor John Ferrero had sent commissioners a "bombshell" of a letter dated August 23, 2010 (the day commissioners had removed Gary D. Zeigler as Stark County treasurer) in which he details the need of the prosecutor's office to have $288,652.50 to make it through the rest of 2010 without laying off or furloughing some of his administrative and professional (i.e. from among the assistant prosecutors).
Of the requested amount, the SCPR understands that the commissioners would get back $181,245.08 when the prosecutor's office gets reimbursed by the grantor of a grant which Ferrero's office has obtained for Stark County taxpayers. (It's the kind of grant where the prosecutor spends the money first and then gets reimbursed by the entity that awarded the grant)
It appears to The Report that Ferrero is asking for $181.245.08 because of a cash flow problem which will be resolved in March, 2011 when the grant money comes in which will then be turned over to the county general fund.
However, The Report's take is that the other $107,000 + ($288,652.50 minus $181,245.08) would further diminish the county's general fund.
Here is a copy of the letter.
Undoubtedly, Ferrero had to know that he would meet with resistance from the commissioners.
Because the commissioners at today's meeting passed a Resolution recognizing the $2.9 million + loss of funds out of the Stark County treasury over the period 2003 through 2008. Former Chief Deputy Frustaci has admitted to taking $2.46 million of the missing money.
So what was a $5.5 million budget stabilization fund (popularly known as a "rainy day fund,") has dwindled by the $2.9 million plus offset by $230,000 paid over by FirstMerit Bank to the county general fund to cover losses on two checks that Frustaci wrote on a treasury bank account with FirstMerit, and which the bank inexplicably cashed allowing him to make off with the $230,000.
So note in the letter and in the video presented below the great lengths that Ferrero and his stand-in Chief Counsel John Kurtzman go to in an endeavor to show commissioners how much the office has generated in grants; how much it has covered in a previous cash flow problem (the $41,269.28) that prosecutor's office had experienced last year (2009), and that the prosecutor's office had returned to commissioners $46,000 in 2009 (as if it was some type of savings account that the prosecutor's office now wants to withdraw).
Most of Kurtman's presentation was about how hard the prosecutor's staff works. He left it up to Operations Director Kent Smith to discuss the financial end of the matter with commissioners.
Stark Countians can expect a parade of such requests over the next several years. Commissioners have sent out a letter to all county departments which participate in the general fund to submit appropriation requests at a minus 16%.
In past meetings earlier this year, commissioners have talked about how they did not think county department heads (elected officials in their own right) were getting the message.
Yesterday, Stark County Chief Administrator Mike Hanke told the SCPR that he believes that the message is now getting through.
In May, 2011 commissioners will be asking Stark County voters to renew a 0.25 of one percent sales tax. There is a lot of concern that the Stark County treasury problem coupled with a tough local economy could cause even a renewal to be defeated.
There is no doubt that the Stark County general fund is in need of an infusion of new money. But there is no way that county taxpayers would approve new money in the current climate.
The Report analysis is that the economy is only partially to blame.
In the view of the SCPR, Commissioners' imposition of a 0.50 of one percent sales tax in December, 2008 (Bosley, Harmon and Vignos) is the main reason why Stark Countians are not about to approve any new money.
Here is the Kurtzman video.