Sunday, July 10, 2011


As yours truly recalls, when Republican John P. Dougherty (a former state school board member) ran for and was elected county commissioner in 1994 he was telling voters do not elect me unless you pass the sales tax issue too.

Well, he won - ousting incumbent Democrat Mary Cirelli (now a Canton councilwoman-at-large).  On the day after the election Cirelli said she expected to lose as much as two months out from the election because it was a Republican year (1994:  remember Newt Gingrich and the Republican "Contract with America) and therefore did not put much money into the campaign.  Hmm?

But the levy lost.

Interestingly enough, current Commissioner Janet Creighton (a Republican) was on the ballot as an incumbent candidate for county auditor.

So like it or not, Dougherty and fellow commissioners Don Watkins (a Republican) and Gayle Jackson (a Democrat) had to go back to the drawing board for a new try for the May 2, 1995 primary election.

Watkins wanted to put on a full 1% for an indefinite period.  However, Dougherty and Jackson opted to push for a 1/2 cent tax increase for four years with one-half of the tax dedicated to criminal justice. Stark County had voted down 8 sales tax issues for the period 1985 through 1994.

The "deja vu, all over again" Yogi Berra "funnyism" comes into play because the SCPR has gotten indication (last Wednesday) from a Stark County commissioner that the commissioners have under active consideration the placing of a 1/2 cent sales tax issue that (here is the difference from 1995) that may be fully dedicated to Stark criminal justice system (in the main:  the sheriff and the courts).

County officials often repeat that the criminal justice expenses to the general revenue fund are about 70% of Expenditures.

All the commissioners will tell you that they want to get back to a fully funded criminal justice system (a la 2009 and 2010 which would bring 41 sheriff deputies back to work).  Seventy percent times $56 million (rounded off to simply this discussion) equals about $39 million needed for a fully funded criminal justice system.

A 1/2 cent sales/use tax raises about $22 million in Stark County.  If the tax were to pass, then the county would have to take about $17 million from the general revenue fund (funded by non-sales-tax revenues of about $34 million) allocated to  to the criminal justice line items leaving about $17 million for other general fund obligations.

At these numbers, the county gets back to some normalcy.

The advantage to the commissioners and other county office holders is that earmarked purposes for voted in taxes seem to work.  One of the reasons that the 2008 imposed tax by Commissioners Bosley, Harmon and Vignos got repealed by voters in November, 2009 was because the revenue was divided between fixing the 9-1-1 emergency system and the county general fund.  Of course, the primary reason was that the commissioners "imposed" the tax.

As the SCPR sees it, a "for the general fund" sales tax has no chance of winning in November.  But a dedicated tax might. 

A key on a criminal justice dedicated sales tax passing could be the term of the tax. The Report believes that five years is a likely term that the commissioners come up with whether or not the tax is dedicated to criminal justice.

The Stark commissioners are busy rebuilding trust at the county level of government.  But Bernabei and Creighton have only been on the job 6 months as of now and it will only be 11 months come November.  Not enough time to restore public confidence.

The Report favors the entire criminal justice system being funded by a sales tax (which would take the better part of a full percent).  However, a one percent sales tax is a non starter in 2011.  In five years?  Perhaps.  Maybe even the overall state and county economy may be significantly better.

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