Thursday, June 2, 2011


At yesterday's Stark County commissioners meeting, the commissioners took the first step condition precedent to putting a sales tax issue on the November ballot asking Stark Countians to approve a new sales tax county piggyback on Ohio's 6% of 0.5 per cent.  They passed a resolution (see video below) setting two dates required by Ohio law for hearings on matter:
  • June 21, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. at Room 318 of the Stark County Office Building
  • June 28, 2011 at 6:00 p.m at the Sippo Lake Park Exploration Gateway

It will be interesting to see who attends the hearings and whether not there will be controversy as there was when Commissioners Bosley, Harmon and Vignos "imposed" a 0.5% sales/use tax increase in December, 2008 supposedly to fund a rehab of "a broken countywide 9-1-1 emergency services" infrastructure.

To be sure, fixing the broken 9-1-1 system was part of the motivation for the imposed tax, however, not the only reason.  Built into the 0.5% - perhaps the major purpose of imposing the tax -  was money for the county general revenue fund.  Problem was is that some Stark Countians felt that the commissioners were hiding what appeared to them to be "the real purpose," which motivated them to form a repeal of the tax effort.  The labeled themselves:  "Vote No Increased Taxes Committee" (Vote Nos).  The SCPR credits local attorney and civic activists Craig T. Conley as being the brains and the driving force behind the effort.

Initially, the proponents of the tax scoffed at Conley et al.  But come November, 2009; the Vote Nos proved to be more than the equal of the Bosley, Harmon and Vignos crowd.

It appears to the SCPR that the Conley led forces would not lead a new fight against the renewal of a 0.25 sales tax set to expire this year.  However, the commissioners elected not to present a renewal in the wake of former Stark County Chief Deputy Vince Frustaci having been convicted of stealing $2.46 million in county funds (but thought by some to be as high as the $2.96 million in missing funds).

Newly elected commissioners Tom Bernabei (Democrat) and Janet Creighton (Republican) instead have joined with sitting commissioner Pete Ferguson to fan out into the larger Stark community on an endeavor to restore trust in terms of accessibility and transparency in county government.

Apparently, they feel they have succeeded to the extent that they think they can now ask (not impose on) voters to approve additional general fund revenues in November which will - if approved - start to be collected in April, 2012.  The last of the existing collection of the 0.25 sales tax will be collected on this coming June 30th.

But not so quick, so the SCPR has learned.

After today's meeting, The Report contacted Conley and asked for a reaction.  While Conley says that he is favorably impressed with the current board of commissioners and he could have supported retaining the 0.25% sales tax, HE IS NOT IN FAVOR OF THE PROPOSED 0.5%.

Conley points to nearby Cuyahoga and Summit Counties as having 7% sales tax rates (actually 7.5/6.5% respectively) which have not solved their financial woes.  He thinks that given the continuing recession that everyday Stark Countians are experiencing that an increase in taxes (which the proposed 0.5% tax has a 0.25 increase in it over the non-renewed tax) is not justifiable.  He says he personally opposes the 0.5% proposal and left open the possibility that the dormant, not dead Vote Nos would be revived to fight the built in increase.

 He cites the Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson's operation which he says has not adequately dealt with wages and benefit reductions for departmental employees.

Asked by yours truly whether or not he would be attending either or both the 21st and 28th hearings, he seemed to be skeptical that he would because he feels that the commissioners have made up their minds that the November initiative is to be a 0.5% proposal no matter what.

The Report believes Conley is correct in his analysis.  Accordingly, it appears that there is likely to be organized opposition to the tax initiative, however; this match up will be much more competitive and different in tone than the November, 2009 election.

Why is that?

Because The Report does not believe that the commissioners will be trying the deceive anyone about what the money will be used for and that they will present persuasion-capable numbers to make a case for voter approval.

Moreover, The Report believes they will respectfully disagree with Conley et al on the need for Sheriff Swanson to do anything with wages/benefits by citing layoffs and the scaling down of house prisoners from a maximum of 502 to 300.

So the battle will be joined and Stark Countians will make the decision.

Here is a video compilation of points made by commissioners in a press conference with followed yesterday's meeting.


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