UPDATED: 10:00 AM
FISCAL EMERGENCY MATTER
After going over the Catazaro-Perry 2014 budget projections, the Stark County Political Report is more convinced than ever that the mayor orchestrated "the fiscal emergency crisis" that became official on October 8th with the publication by the State of Ohio Auditor (SOA) of its finding that Massillon was, indeed, (as apparently hoped by Catazaro-Perry) in a fiscal emergency.
Look at these 2014 budget projection numbers presented by the SCPR in summary fashion:
If the budget holds in terms of being accepted by council, then in one year by cutting expenses the city appears to be within $9,000 from being in balance.
Of course, there still is the approximate $2.4 million deficit to deal with.
As The Report has previously written, had the mayor had a different attitude in working with the Massillon City Council from the get-go when she took over the administration of the city on January 1, 2011, I do not believe Massillon would have met even one of the six criteria to be in fiscal emergency in the first place.
Moreover, she could have made "real" cuts to 2013 city expenses to cut deeply into the $2.4 million that Auditor Jayne Ferrero is saying will be the actual deficit number come December 31, 2013.
The SCPR is being told that Massillon's unions are doing their own audit of Massillon's books and are reporting that the deficit is not the reported $2.4 million.
However, knowlegeable Massillonians that The Report has talked to seem to think that such is union posturing.
Moreover, the fiscal emergency data support appears to verify Ferrero's numbers.
A number of Massillonians think the cuts the mayor made to the fire and police departments did not save money as far as the 2013 budget is concerned and was done more in the vein of political grandstanding than in getting serious about making cuts that would have an immediate impact on the 2013 actual expenditures.
Beyond making cuts, Catazaro-Perry had abundant opportunites from January, 2012 through May, 2013 to work out an agreement with council to raise revenues for the city and thereby over a two to three period completely eliminate Massillon's deficit.
But it appears to the SCPR that she decide to politicize her relationship with council (which came under the control of the Republicans in the 2011 general election) by insisting that any revenue raising measures be according to her liking.
When council decided to place an income tax (a .3% proposed increase designed to raise about $2.1 million ), she and her administration sat on their collective duffs and did nothing to help the effort.
Even before Catazaro-Perry took office, she was writing SOA David Yost requesting an audit determinative of whether or not Massillon was in "in fact" - at that time - qualified to be in "fiscal emergency or fiscal watch."
It was weird at the time, and insofar as the SCPR is concerned, it remains so unless one looks at it as being a politically inspired move to put the onus on the outgoing Cicchinelli administration for creating Massillon's financial tough times.
While the SCPR believes that the Cicchinelli administration in the course of its 24 year run did make some decisions that have come back to haunt and hurt in its current Massillon financial picture; the former mayor also made some financial/economical development moves that showed some foresight and helped Massillon stay financially solvent until the draconian state of Ohio local government funding cuts took hold beginning in Fiscal Year 2011.
The Report believes that the mayor and her "Kitchen Cabinent" are so obsessed with the former mayor and their collective endeavor to make the former mayor "the Devil incarnate" (they have actually called Cicchinelli "evil") that the moves that Catazaro-Perry has made since taking office seem to be inordinately focused on the one they now describe as being "Our Once and Future Mayor for Life" are more politically motivated vis-a-vis Cicchinelli than they are designed to improve Massillon's financial and economic development future.
As it is, Massillon is only (not to minimize that, in fact, Massillon has some budgeting problems) some $600,000 over the SOA threshold for being put into fiscal emergency on one criterion of six on which the SOA could find as a basis for determining an Ohio political subdivision to be in fiscal emergency.
Catazaro-Perry administration budget director Ken Koher (a former Stark County treasurer), who the SCPR thinks is a superb financial man and, perhaps, the most capable official in the administration, spoke as to both the budget as presented and certain aspects of fiscal emergency at council's Monday night (immediately past) work session.
The SCPR has looked at the structure of the state of Ohio's mechanism for helping Massillon work through it financial duress.
Ohio has put out a manual that it describes as being:
A brief manual designed to acquaint newly appointed members of a financial planning and supervision commission with guidelines for the commission’s operation.Moreover, The Report has taken a preliminary look at Catazaro-Perry's nominees to be on the Ohio provided for the Financial Planning and Supervision Commission (Commission).
The mayor's nominees are:
- Elaine Campbell,
- Mel Herncane,
- Bob Gessner,
- Berry Carter, and
- Bob Yund
Elaine Campbell has pretty impressive credentials.
She is currently grant and development coordinator at Mercy Medical Center and has been such since 2008.
From 1994 through 2008, she was chief administrator for Perry Township (in fact, the SCPR is told) was the very first chief administrator for the township.
However, it appears that she had a falling out with a former Perry Township trustee which led to her dismissal.
Given her connection to the medical community, might it be that she came to Catazaro-Perry's attention through that avenue? The mayor has a nursing background and she also is married to a doctor.
Of course, there is the Perry Township connection from whence Catazaro-Perry came before taking up in Massillon.
Stark County Commissioner Richard Regula speaks very highly of Campbell and says he believes she is qualified to be a member of the commission.
An incidental sidenote: Her son Matt Campbell is the head football coach of one of the best teams in the Mid-American Conference.
Mel Herncane is a former president of Massillon City Council and whose son, Ted Herncane, is Catazaro-Perry's economic development director.
He is also thought to be one of her closest political allies.
Bob Gessner is president of Massillon Cable TV having been connected with the family run business for some 35 years now.
Impressive is his undergraduate background. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary (located in historic Williamsburg, VA) a sort of "Ivy League of the South" school which is America's second oldest institution second only to Harvard University.
Berry Carter is a Massillon pastor.
His bio indicates that he is a 1972 graduate of Perry High School. A likely basis for a Catazaro-Perry connection, no?
Bob Yund owner of Busy Bee Carwash and Detail (a family business since 1962), is described thusly in an industry publication:
Bob Yund has always made it a habit to listen very carefully to what his customers say. That's one reason why his Massillon, Ohio, flex serve has been among the most admired and respected car washes in its state for over 25 years.According to the "manual," Governor Kasich has the last say on who serves on the commission.
The politically skeptical likely have concerns that the mayor will try to manipulate the Commission so as to have "the last laugh" on council as to the specifics of the composition to adhere to her agenda.
The Report has every confidence that state officials (i.e. the ultimate state official: Governor John Kasich) will not allow the Commission to become "a den of politics"and thereby become an administration tool in her vying with council.
The SCPR is convinced that financial matters in Massillon did not have to come to "fiscal emergency" status.
If the Catazaro-Perry push to "fiscal emergency" has been politically inspired in the sense of blaming other (i.e. Cicchinelli and Massillon City Council), it might just well turn out that such is a major political miscalculation.
In 2015, we well could witness the realization of the deepest fears of her closest supporters that Massillonians will see a return of Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr. : "The Once and Future Mayor for Life."
And beyond that, we might well witness the election of a Republican mayor?
Keep a watch on Ward 6 councilman Ed Lewis, IV.