It is becoming more and more apparent to the SCPR that Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero is all about John Ferrero and/or his corner of Stark County government and little, if anything, else.
According to Stark County Auditor records (circa 12/07/2011), Ferrero was set to take in somewhere around $120,000 in Stark County taxpayer dollars as the elected Stark County prosecutor.
Now we have a situation where he was for a Stark County sales tax increase which would benefit his office, but he is against a 50% reduction in Massillon's income tax credit (for non-Massillon taxpayers).
The kicker is that Ferrero works in Canton, but lives in Massillon and a 50% reduction in the Massillon income tax credit would compel him to pay some Massillon city income tax.
THE STARK COUNTY TAX ISSUE
Last year Stark County commissioners were mulling over exactly how much of a levy they would ask Stark Countians to approve and for how long. It was generally thought that they were gravitating to a 0.5% increase for a period of 8 years.
John Ferrero deferred on the projected 0.5% increased at a public meeting the commissioners held with elected officials in 2011. He and Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson wanted commissioners to go for a full 1% increase and they wanted it to be permanent.
The commissioners made it clear that for the 0.5%, eight year levy, that they ultimately decided to go forward with, would require the hard work of each and every county employee and county departments heads such as Ferrero.
Well, we all know "the rest of the story" - sort of.
The levy passed by a surprising margin which was a big, big relief to the commissioners who just recently passed appropriations for the 2012 calendar year county budget.
Who objected to his share of appropriations? You've got it! None other than Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero.
As the SCPR sees it, Ferrero tried to muscle down the commissioners by putting out the prospect of asking Stark County's judges (Municipal and Common Pleas) to appoint "special counsel" which - to get to the short of it - would force commissioners in the long run to pay out substantially more than Ferrero was asking for in 2012 appropriations.
Ironically, one leading Stark County public figure contacted yours truly after the successful levy campaign to say that Ferrero sat on his duff during the campaign and did very little to help it pass.
The Report asked Ferrero about this allegation and asked him for some details as to exactly what were the specifics of his effort in promoting the levy.
He refused to respond in any kind of detail.
Stark County Commissioner Tom Bernabei says that he is confident that Ferrero will not make good on his suggestion to "blow up" (The Report's words and assessment in a figurative sense of the expression, not Bernabei's nor Ferrero's) the county budget/appropriations with "special counsel" expenditures. The Report does not know how Bernabei can be so optimistic.
Stark County Treasurer Alex Zumbar is making a gallant effort to bring down the delinquent Stark County property taxes which now stand at $43 million. Zumbar wants go from referring 520 collection cases to the prosecutor's office in 2011 to 700 this year. (Confirming: Stark collects $2.4 million in revived tax-collection effort, Kelli Young of The Rep, February 18, 2012).
Good luck Treasurer Zumbar! Take this quote from Young's article, to wit:
More recent collection efforts have been stifled by the county’s budget woes that forced Prosecutor John Ferrero to reassign temporarily one of the paralegals in his delinquent tax collection unit into another division due to layoffs.Also, The Report recalls that in a Delinquent Tax Assessment Collection (DTAC) work session with commissioners last year that Prosecutor Ferrero noted that the county only gets about 3 to 4 percent of real property taxes collected in Stark County.
So why would he want to put resources into an activity that benefits the cities, villages, townships and boards of education sprinkled across Stark County but which does relatively little for Stark County government?
But he was for the sales tax increase.
THE MASSILLON TAX ISSUE
John Ferrero lives in Massillon and he was Massillon's law director and prosecuting attorney from January, 1988 through February, 2003.
A Massillon public official for over 15 years and he has a problem paying taxes to the city?
The SCPR has learned that Ferrero and his chief assistant John Kurtzman (who also lives in Massillon) appeared at Massillon's city council meeting of November 21, 2011 to object to a plan being pondered to reduce the income tax credit by 50% to Massillonians who work outside the city.
Massillon voters recently elected Johnnie A. Maier, Jr (Massillon clerk of courts) and Shane Jackson (Maier's chief deputy) political protege Kathy Catazaro-Perry as mayor over long term and now former Mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr. last November.
One of the problems that Catazaro-Perry faces is that Massillon is not in very good financial/fiscal shape.
Of course, she knew this going in and decided to run anyway.
Last year John Ferrero's sister-in-law Jayne Ferrero (Massillon city auditor) proposed the 50% income tax credit as a way to help Massillon (Cicchinelli was still mayor when the tax credit reduction was proposed) get money to at least make an effort to be more current on its expenses which were and continue to run months behind.
So it was a bit confusing when Massillonian John Ferrero and Kurtzman showed up to object and Auditor Jayne Ferrero was nowhere to be seen and, in fact, is reported in the Massillon Independent as now having no opinion on the income tax credit reduction.
Exactly what was the Ferrero/Kurtzman objection?
“You [Massillon City Council] are now pitting families against families ... they [because of the credit reduction?] are taking food away from their children" (The Independent, February 8, 2012).The real reason, the SCPR believes, for the Jayne Ferrero turnabout and for the Ferrero/Kurtzman objecting appearance on November 21st is because of their political alliance with the electorally deposed Cicchinelli forces.
In one sense, the SCPR thinks that the contending political forces (all Democrats) deserve each other.
On the other hand one must pause for thought and consider that it is not the politicos who suffer if the reduction does not pass council. Rather it is the residents of the city of Massillon.
If Catazaro-Perry does not get additional revenue that the reduction would bring in (estimated at $600,000 this year; $1.5 million next year), cuts will have to be made that likely will affect the well-being of Massillonians.
Catazaro-Perry by virtue of having been elected by the citizens of Massillon deserves an opportunity to govern. Notwithstanding her knowing what she was getting into, it is in the interest of Massillonians that she have a fair chance to show what she can do to right the fiscal structure of the city of Massillon.
The SCPR has criticized and continues to admonish Mayor Kathy for relying too much on the likes of Maier and Jackson. A major reason she is in her current fix is because of the political warfare that is obviously continuing post-election between the Maier-led forces and Cicchinelli loyalists.
John Ferrero could be a major factor in helping to stabilize both Stark County government as well as Massillon's.
But it appears that he is not inclined to do so as evidenced by uncooperative attitude vis-a-vis commissioners in the budgeting process post-0.5% sales tax increase (which he supported) and by his opposition to the proposed 50% reduction in the Massillon income tax credit.
Inconsistency is the hallmark of a person who is doing his own thing.
So it is not surprising that John Ferrero is for increased taxes to help solve Stark County's fiscal emergency but not Massillon's.
Coming full circle: It is becoming more and more apparent to the SCPR that Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero is all about John Ferrero and/or his corner of Stark County government and little, if anything, else.
And consistency be hanged!