Monday, October 18, 2010


Nearly 62%  (1621 of 2640) of all Stark County employees get the county to pick up part of the employee's share of annual pension contributions to their respective state retirement systems.  This according to a Repository report:  Commissioners candidates weigh-in on extra pension payments, October 14th - a staff report.
For an employee making $50,000 annually, the reported 4.25% pick up amounts to $2,125.

Cumulatively, the "partial pick up" costs Stark County's taxpayers $2.7 million annually.

Obviously, prior Stark County commissioners have allowed the "extra" payments to be negotiated by county officeholders from county coffers while knowing full well that Stark County was heading for a fiscal crisis which will hit full force in 2012.

In fiscal year 2011 county offices are being required to cut their budgets by about 16% and in 2012 they are likely to be asked to cut an additional 30 to 35%.  

In December, 2008, county commissioners (Bosley, Harmon and Vignos) voted to impose a 0.50 sales tax increase which was to be split 50/50 between the county general fund and the rehab of countywide 9-1-1.  In hindsight, the county general fund's share would go in significant share to pay for the "extra" pension payments.

In December, 2009, Stark Countians voted overwhelmingly to end the additional tax and so now county officeholders are left holding the bag for increases they negotiated with employee unions without ascertaining that the county has the revenue to pay the increased share.  So it appears that county services will be cut to the taxpaying Stark County general public as a consequence of county officials' irresponsible fiscal action. 

Jackson Township Trustee and Republican James N. Walters (running for the remaining two years on Tom Harmon's term against Democrat Tom Bernabei) has blown the whistle on the irresponsible fiscal action by county officeholders as sanctioned by county commissioners.

The SCPR has written previously that Walters has very little chance to defeat Bernabei.  And by calling county officeholders and past commissioners out on their irresponsible negotiating/approval behavior, he likely has even less chance.

Less chance?

Yes, less chance.

Why would that be?  Sounds like he's a stand-up guy and should be rewarded by the electorate.

Well, it does make sense that he would be applauded for speaking out and rewarded with votes because he promises to correct the reckless action over time.  However, there are 1, 621 employees who Walters is in effect asking to take a 4.25% pay cut and The Report does not believe that they will be out campaigning for Walters.

Indeed not.

In fact, Walters is probably looking at a phenomenon where the word spreads quickly among the affected public employees to friends and family that Walters must be stopped from becoming a commissioner.

Moreover, it is unlikely that the non-employee connected Stark County voting citizenry will become aware of Walters' condemnation of the "extra" county pension payments so as to collect themselves to act in concert in support of Walters to offset the likely adverse county employee reaction to Walters' promise to do away with the "extras."

While she does not say so in direct language in The Rep's report, Republican candidate Janet Creighton (running for a full four year term against Democrat Steve Meeks - the Bosley vacated seat) seems to be interested in Walters' point.

Do not count on Bernabei and Meeks to show much "for public consumption" interest in excising the county pick-up of part of the employees' share,  Privately, they may be interested.  However, both rely heavily on union support and therefore are unlikely to go on the public record as being in concord with Walters.

It will be interesting to see whether or not Walters' position catches on by November 2nd to translate into net votes to Walters and perhaps a huge surprise on election day.

As a follow up to Walters' point is the need to look into the identity of the officeholders (and approving commissioners) who have handed out the handsome "extra" pension pick-up benefits.  

Stark County voters deserve to know who these irresponsible "public servants?" are.  

Voters should have their say in upcoming elections,

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