UPDATE 06/24/2011 - FIXED MISSING SOUND ON DAN SWIFT SEGMENT OF VIDEO
When the Stark Couunty commissioners failed to place the existing 0.25 sales tax on the May primary ballot for renewal, the given reason was that it could not pass because of the Frustaci scandal and that the commissioners needed time to rebuild the public's trust in county government.
With all due respect to the commissioners, the SCPR does not buy that as the primary reason.
The Report believes that the commissioners had put their pencils to paper and calculated that 0.25 simply would not cut it in terms of the county's need for revenue and that they needed the extra time to build support for a 0.5% sales tax.
They are using a number of techniques to get to 50% plus 1 of those voting this November. Included are:
- The fear factor. Criminals are running Stark County's streets at the rate of 200 unused beds at the Stark County Jail.
- Only enough money to run a "bare bones" (41 deputies laid off, 12 prosecutors laid off) criminal justice operation factor. The rest of county government will go unfunded (no personnel to collect and distribute taxes)
- The "much of the tax (40%) will be paid by non-Stark Countians" factor.
- The "who will miss 50 cents on a $100 purchase factor."
- The "we are working commissioners who answer our own phones and get out into the larger Stark County community" factor.
- The "we jawbone county officials who are not team players" factor (e.g. Veterans Service Commission giving raises over commissioners' objection).
Nobody who spoke at yesterday's first of two hearings required by Ohio law as conditions precedent to placing a sales tax initiative on the ballot said that the commissioners had restored trust and that Stark Countians should support the upcoming 0.5 sales tax increase on that basis.
Those who spoke in support used one or more of the factors recited above.
All of the discussion pro or con on the issue itself was irrelevant because the commissioners (individually) have determined that a 0.5 sales tax increase is going on the November ballot. After the Sippo Lake (Library) hearing next week, the commissioners at their next regular meeting will vote to place the issue on the ballot.
The only question to be determined is how long is the tax increase to run.
Richard Currie (a former councilman in Hartville and who is currently running for mayor) told commissioners to make the tax permanent.
Michael Mouse (a former councilman in Canal Fulton) told commissioners to only have it go for one year so that the commissioners will have to be accountable to the Stark County public again next year. Talk about someone who really does not trust the commissioners!
In 2002, Stark Countians approved the 0.25 sales tax for eight years.
A permanent sales tax increase will not fly. One year is not a fair period of time for commissioners to get out of the campaign mode into a governance mode to show what they can do in terms leaning on all the departments of county government to join them in an all out effort to regain the trust of Stark Countians.
Eight years is a good middling point and a term that the commissioners should consider.
Here is a video sampling (includes statements by Stark Common Pleas Court Judges Heath and Haas) of the pro/con statements made by various Stark Countians who appeared before commissioners yesterday.