Tuesday, March 19, 2013



Bernabei:  Summarizing the 2013 Budget

Harold:  The Impact of State Gov't Funding Loses

Creighton:  "A New Day in County Finances" 

Tomorrow, the Stark County commissioners will likely adopt a budget for 2013 they presented to Stark County department heads and to the general public last Wednesday.

It appears that it is now financial recovery time for all Stark County departments of government.

2011 was an absolute nightmare for county offices because a 0.25 sales tax levy expired and commissioners determined prior to its expiration that because of a loss of confidence in county government (i.e. the imposed sales tax of 2008 and Zeiglergate, et cetera), it would be unavailing to put a renewal or replacement issue on the ballot.

In the interim, the commissioners have practiced what they preached in terms of leading by example in fiscal austerity.

With the passage of the November 2011 0.5% sales tax increase, it is make up time for them and the remaining county departments of government.  In the opinion of the SCPR, the commissioners' increase, for one, is justified from 2012's $523,020 (all numbers rounded off) to $819,629.

The $819,629 represents a accurate accounting of what the commissioners are actually spending to run their office.  In 2011, 242,632 to had been shifted off the commissioners' general fund allocation to three non-general fund budget categories.

To the SCPR it was pretty amazing what former Chief Administrator Mike Hanke was able to do in maintaining a high level of commissioner administrative functions (including his wearing many, many hats) by becoming creative in finding the financing to maintain a core staff in the face of cuts being made.

Hanke retired March 1st.  However, the 2013 budget is his handiwork working with his top associate Rick Flory.

As alluded to above, making up for previous cuts across county government operations is a theme of the approved appropriations for the 2013 budget.

Already in the headlines of various media have been the restoration of large amounts of general fund budgeting to the Stark County sheriff's department.

The sales tax increase was promoted to the voters that the proceeds' first priority use would be to restore the criminal justice system (the sheriff, the courts, the prosecutor and other associated offices) to its 2010 levels (the last year that the county received sales tax revenues prior to the tax expiration in 2011).

As it turns out, former Sheriff Tim Swanson had not preplanned adequately in getting up to full bore with his department's operations (i.e. hiring enough deputies/corrections officers to full staff the jail so that its 501 beds can be fully utilized) with the infusion of new funds to finance same.  In fact, he was so unprepared that the department returned unused funds in 2012.

Oh, he has his excuses.  But the SCPR thinks that is exactly what they are.  The truth of the matter is that despite his many years in office and cumulative experience, he proved (with the rehiring debacle) why he did the Stark County public a favor in retiring.

Unfortunately for Stark Countians, notwithstanding the fact that the sheriff will be hiked from the 2011 budget appropriation number of $13,884,409 (seven/eight digit numbers to be read as being in the millions) to 2013's $17,937,214, the latter number is $1,156,382 less than could be available if current sheriff George T. Maier were able to make up for Swanson's deficiency in planning.

But he can't.  And what's worse for the safety of Stark Countians is that in the opinion of the SCPR, it is unlikely that Maier will be anything other than a short term sheriff.  The Report fully expects that the Ohio Supreme Court will - ironically - find for Swanson in his Quo Warranto against Maier and turn Maier out of office within, perhaps, the next 60 days.

A parade of sheriffs is not what Stark County needs in order to shore up and stabilize Stark County's maximized safety for the citizens.

The SCPR believes that the Stark County Democratic Party leadership (i.e. Chairman Randy Gonzalez and Executive Vice President Johnnie A. Maier, Jr [brother of George Maier] a former chairman) are to blame for the deficiency in the appointing process that is likely to result in George Maier's removal by the high court.

Another key player in the criminal justice system is the Stark County prosecutor's office.

Headed up by John Ferrero (another former Stark County Democratic Party chairman), the prosecutor's office is another example of the Stark County public being poorly served.

The one public official that had to be drug along kicking and screaming during the county's hard financial times (LINK to a prior SCPR blog that details much of same) was Prosecutor Ferrero.

Ferrero will get the funding to restore to his office the 14 employees that he lost in the austerity drive.  His office goes from $2,937,064 (2011) to $3,344,136 (2013).

In the opinion of the SCPR, given the deficient way in which The Report thinks Ferrero manages his office, he could probably do with a few more employees.

At that, the commissioners show their frugality in reducing the prosecutor $288,004 from his requested to appropriated funding.

Good for them!   The Report believes they need to be especially diligent in scrutinizing any requested numbers that come from Mister Fererro.

Another office deserving special attention is the Stark County Recorder.

Rick Campbell and John Ferrero are fiscal twins in the judgment of the SCPR.

A bellyacher-extraordinaire who apparently (according to Auditor Alan Harold) has a difficult time finding his way to the office, Campbell merits close watching.

Figuring out how many new employees (given the confusing numbers game that Campbell appeared to be playing with commissioners in the budget hearings on Recorder employees compared to Microfilming employees) Campbell wanted seemed to merit the hiring of a private investigator.

Whatever the actual number turned out to be, it appears the commissioners had the good sense to cut Campbell's request in half and also to cut him substantially from his requested 2013 ($670,590) to what they actually appropriated ($618,665),

Still Campbell managed to cajole them into a huge increase from 2011 in which he received $517,010.

Campbell used to be one (circa 2004 - 2008) of the Stark County's most impressive elected officials in terms of adopting technology and thereby becoming more efficient. 

But since then, The Report has become completely disenchanted with him.

In yours truly's estimate, Campbell and Ferrero rank right at the top of those Stark County elected officials that the voters ought to be of a mind to replace.

In sum, the SCPR thinks the commissioners (err Michael Hanke, well, on second thought - the commissioners deserve credit [especially Tom Bernabei]) has done a superlative job in managing the 2013 budget.

Totally impressive is the fact that they have set aside $5.5 million in unappropriated funds for future capital projects, wit:
  • A rainy day fund,
  • Repairs to the county ditch drainage system,
  • Roof for Stark County jail,
  • Relocation of the Stark County Board of Elections,
  • Creation of a sinking fund to provide for county employee retirement payout liabilities,
  • Bow building roof repairs (Bow was obtained by the county from the federal government to house some county operations), and
  •  county office building repairs
Newly appointed Brant Luther has big shoes to fill for the 2014 budget.  Mike Hanke proved to be a master budgeteer.

The SCPR presents a full video presentation of the proceedings of March 13, 2013.

First let's discuss aStark County Auditor Alan Harold's presentation.  (note:  Harold's presentation begins at the 11 minute mark of the video)

Harold makes a very telling description of the scam job (the SCPR's characterization; not Harold's) that the Republican controlled Ohio General Assembly [including our local representatives Hagan, Oelslager and Schuring] did in taking away millions of local governments (from $6.2 million [2007] to $2.9 million [2013]) to be supposedly replaced by revenues from casino operations (originally projected at $5.4 million which is likely to, in fact be $1.8 billion) which in fact looks likely to be a  net loss of revenues from the State of Ohio in the amount of $4.4 billion since 2007.

Next up is Commissioner Tom Bernabei and his summary of the budget.  Also featured in this video clip:  comments by Stark County  Commissioners Creighton and Regula (at the end of the video).

And finally, Commissioner Creighton in a one-on-one interview.

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