By the Stark County Political Report's calculation the Stark Commissioners have been out campaigning since February 9th of this year (Plain Township community meeting).
And well they should be!
For two reasons:
- They have an URGENT need to restore trust on the part of Stark Countians in county government, and
- If they can convince Stark Countians to trust them, then they need to convince those who vote to increase the sales tax by 0.5%.
One sees this all the time from government officials. When there is no self-serving need to be in touch with the electorate; they aren't.
Meanwhile, something like the Vince Frustaci scandal (re: former Stark County chief deputy treasurer who stole Stark County taxpayer money) surfaces.
All of a sudden public confidence and trust in that branch of government (and in all accretive sense - all of government) nose dives.
Consequence? Publicly perceived (rightly or wrongly) government officials that the public thinks could have or should have done such and such to prevent the problem cannot get elected dog catcher and requests for additional revenues (taxes) are non-starters.
A number of Stark County officials probably lost in 2010 (at least in part) because of the public perception of "could have/should have" came out of the Frustaci scandal with.
On finances: the Stark County commissioners have a herculean task to restore enough trust and confidence vis-a-vis the Stark County public as a consequence of the Frustaci scandal.
Beginning in February, commissioners launched a "meet with the public" series designed to account to the public on county finances. By the time they have concluded on June 30th in Marlboro Township, they will have conducted 22 meetings.
To what effect?
Because very few Stark Countians have been attending these meetings.
Jackson Township produced the best turn out and the city of Canton (believe it or not) - the worst. Maybe 25 or 30 attended Jackson.
How many in Canton? ZERO!!!
One of the alarming this about the commissioners' series of community meetings (all of which were held in township halls or council chambers and the like), relatively few of local government officials attended. And, it appears, absolutely none went out and encouraged their citizenry to attend.
Of course, if the 0.5% sales tax that the commissioners are certainly going to be putting on the November ballot goes down and county services for non-criminal justice matters are reduced to a skeletal level, who will all of a sudden get activated?
You've got it. All those township, village, city and board of education public officials who could not get off their collective duffs and help the county commissioners in their endeavor to connect to and educate the public.
Commissioner Creighton sounds the alarm bells at commissioner meetings in suggesting that the finances of the county (if the 0.5% sales tax fails) could go so low that the treasurer's office may not have the personnel to collect/process property tax and other revenues that are due the county. Moreover, the auditor's office - she suggests - may not have the personnel to do such things has process requests for advances (made commonly by boards of education) and payments to local governments.
Is this hype on Creighton's part?
The SCPR thinks so. But maybe not!
At Monday's (this week) work session, Creighton initiated a request of Commissioners Bernabei and Ferguson that they join her in scheduling a meeting of virtually all of Stark County's public officials (including boards of educations, school treasurers and the like) so as to specifically confront them with the looming 2012 county fiscal crisis that she says will impact each and every one of them whether they are a village, city, county, township or board of education official.
No date has been set and on checking with Commissioner Creighton this morning there is some question as to whether or not such a meeting will actually be set up.
The Report thinks it should occur and local government officials made to face up to what is in the offing for them and their collective constituencies across Stark County.
The first of two hearings that are required by Ohio law for commissioners to hold is set for 1:30 p.m. Room 318 of the Stark County Office Building on June 21st (next Tuesday).
The Report expects a number of opponents to the tax increase to be present. The exchange should be interesting and yours truly encourages Stark Countians to show up in great numbers.
Community activist and local attorney Craig T. Conley (a participant in the "Vote No Increased Taxes Committee" that successfully opposed retention - November, 2009 - of the commissioner [Bosley, Harmon and Vignos] imposed 0.5% increase of December, 2008) has told The Report that he opposes a 0.5% increase and is insistent that the county has not done enough to rein-in benefit costs at the Stark County Sheriff's department.
ON THE NUMBERS WHICH COMMISSIONERS SAY JUSTIFY A TAX INCREASE
The SCPR presents below a series of documents produced by the Stark County commissioners which give their version of how the finances of the county will shake out should Stark Countians.