Wednesday, February 15, 2012



The fact that money is finding Stark County officials is no laughing matter at Stark County commissioners meetings these days.

Officials are well aware that some $2.4 million has more or less mysteriously appeared over the last several months as they grapple with putting together the Stark County General Fund Budget for 2012.  But they also realize that "the money finding them" is going to raise the eyebrows among a certain part of the Stark County citizenry rank and file.

One such "eyebrows raised person" might be Republican Craig T. Conley who is running as a Republican to unseat sitting commissioner and Democrat Thomas Bernabei.

Conley is the leading Stark County political curmudgeon when it comes to believing what Stark County elected and non-elected officials say about their revenues and expenditures and managerial control of costs techniques.

A week ago or so, Stark County Auditor Alan Harold blessed the commissioners with the news that $1.1 million in "overpaid" personal property taxes and real property taxes had accumulated and although Stark County will forever and ever be obligated to repay the overpaying taxpayers should they some day file a claim, the chances of that happening get more and more remote by the day, and therefore Auditor Harold thinks there is no good reason not to certify that the $1.1 million is a resource that the commissioner can spend.

Last week Auditor Harold hinted that more blessings were to come.  But he wouldn't say exactly from where and how much.  However, county officials were praying for a cool $1 million or so.  The question:  would the $1 million rain down in the form of "pennies - 100 times a million - raining down from heaven?"

Lo and behold!  Prayers have been answered!!  At yesterday's work session of commissioners it was announced that Stark County Clerk of Courts Nancy Reinbold had found $1 million in what is called "title funds" and that County Chief Administrator Mike Hanke working with Stark's exceptional Benefits Administrator Carol Hayn had figured out that county general fund departments had "overpaid" (that word again) their share of the county's monthly health care self-insurance assessment collectively by $284,000 and that BINGO! there you have it:  an answer to prayer - a cool $1.3 million (rounded off, of course, to the next higher number).

Consequently, the previously announced 20% cuts (on average) except for criminal justice and administration departments (10%) would dip just a little below those numbers.

Commissioner Janet Creighton is especially sensitive to the possibility that the twice repeated serendipitous raining down of money might be taken by skeptics such as Conley as being just a tad disingenuous, and took pains at yesterday's meeting to disclaim that such was the case given that she and Commissioner Bernabei have worked extremely hard since their ascension to commissionership status, to convince Stark Countians that the game playing days in Stark County government are over and that Stark voters should eschew the negativity of the Conley-esque types.

Here is a video of Creighton, her fellow commissioners, Chief Administrator Mike Hanke and Auditor Harold commenting on the "money finding county official" phenomenon.

Also, be sure to take in the following post-commissioners-meeting video tapped press conference in which yours truly and Rep reporter Kelli Young quiz Commissioner Bernabei and Chief Administrator Mike Hanke about various budget topics (money for ditching, 9-1-1, et cetera).

Included in this video is an exchange between yours truly and Commissioner Bernabei on whether or not he has any concerns about the balance of perspective of presenters at an upcoming (March 10th) Stark County Local Emergency Planning Committee (SCLEPC) on hazardous materials as same is related to fracking.

And there is more.

The SCPR shares with readers of this blog an exchange which took place between yours truly and Chief Administrator Mike Hanke on a "what if" question pertaining to "what if health care claims accelerate and there is not adequate money in the self-insured fund to cover claims - will moneys (already appropriated, implied) have to be taken from general fund departments to cover the unanticipated balloon in claims?

In the Good Book we know that "all things are possible."  But as the SCPR understood Administrator Hanke's explanation that "it is not possible" that there has been a miscalculation in the next 12 months' needs for a cash reserve to cover health insurance claims thereby obviating the possibility that the county would have to retrieve "one month holiday" moneys credited to the various general fund departments of Stark County government.


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