Tuesday, October 19, 2010


 UPDATE:  10/20/2010


Yesterday the SCPR wrote a commentary on a Repository piece reporting county commissioner candidate James N. Walters making the point that Stark County is paying out $2.7 million annually in "extra" contributions to the Ohio Public Employment System (OPERS) by "picking-up" a part of the state law mandated employee share of contributions to the pension plan.

Walters when on record in the article as being committed to correcting this phenomenon over time as contracts get re-negotiated.

The Report supports the Walters' promised initiative and believes that Commissioner Ferguson (who is not up for election this time around) should adopt the Walters' approach as should sitting Commissioner Steve Meeks and his opponent Janet Creighton.

It is a simple matter of the math.

If something is not done on the revenue side of funding county government soon, Stark County is about to plummet from a current budget of about $55 million to about $35* million in a couple of years. (* - according to Walters' opponent Tom Bernabei).

Nearly $3 million a year is significant money and needs to be recovered to the Stark County coffers.

The Report received the following e-mail yesterday suggesting that Walters' is a political hypocrite:

So The Report contacted Walters and this is what he had to say.
  • He did vote to continue employee pick-up for employees that are on the township payroll, however, he did so in the pursuit of a larger objective.
  • By agreeing to leave existing employees untouched, the township achieved a concession whereby "new" employees would have to pay the entire 10% that state law mandates be paid by the employee or alternatively in the name of the employee.
  • Over time, the township will be relieved of the "extra pension payments" and will save the township hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In any event the e-mail writer's 27% of employee income number to be paid to OPERS cannot be correct.  Walters says, depending on which employees are involved, the number would be either 34% (24% - the township; 10% the employee share - for firefighters) or 24% (14% - the township; 10% the employee share - all other employees).

Another important factor is the fact that trustees decided to extend the same standard to non-union employees of the township.

So is James N. Walters being a political hypocrite?

The Report thinks not.

Disadvantageously negotiated union contracts do take time to repair.  And Walters is not advocating draconian action even at the county level.  So his position seems to be consistent whether it the township situation or the county situation.

The only troublesome part of Walters' position is for the non-union employees.  That change could be made immediately.  Undoubtedly, doing such would cause a firestorm at township hall.

Apparently, Walters does not have the stomach to advocate for that.

So being Captain Courageous only goes so far.

But political courage is so lacking among elected government officials this day and age, we have to be thankful whenever it surfaces.

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