Stark County Commissioner Janet Creighton sat down with the Stark County Political Report on Monday to discuss where the county has been in 2013 and how the county has dealt with matters that came up in 2013.
Beyond the 2013 discussion, Commissioner Creighton also looked forward into 2014 and provided a glimpse at what Stark Countians can expect to see in terms of practices, programs and policies from county government.
The full (almost 30 minute) interview can be viewed at the end of this blog.
Commissioner Creighton described 2013 as being a "year of restoration."
While a critical piece in county officials restoring the full range of county services to Stark Countians, that is to say the November, 2011 passed 0.5% sales tax increase (the Justice System sales tax [JSST]), started being collected in 2012, it was not until fiscal year 2013 that the full complement of a year's revenue was collected.
In 2013 - the year of restoration - Commissioner Creighton articulated three effects of the commissioners having the benefit of the additional revenue, to wit:
- a better feeling where the county is heading,
- getting a better handle on the safety and security of Stark County, and
- a realization of Stark County financial stability
ACTUAL CHANGES SILO
Having money, Commissioner Creighton says, has had a "chemical effect" on county government operations in terms of affecting - in a positive way - the interactions among county employees and in the relationship between county employees and the general Stark County public.
She further refines 2013 (the year of restoration) as being "a year of change."
Stark Countians, Creighton says, are beginning to see better services.
BUDGET AND FINANCE SILO
Creighton says that Stark's commissioners have embraced "smart money management" practices in the context of a commitment of the county "living within its means" and also finding ways to put money aside (i.e. "a rainy day fund").
Because of these fundamental budgeting and financing changes, Stark County in 2013 was able to fund what she calls "quality of life" factors of county government.
THE SURPRISE SILO
The message here, it seems to the SCPR, is that the commissioners have taken "surprises" such as the roof more or less collapsing at the Board of Elections (BOE) facility on 3rd Street NE and turned them into positives for the county.
County officials have known for years that the 3rd Street facilities had seen their better days. But nonetheless prior boards of commissioners seemed content with nursing the decrepit building along from year-to-year hoping against hope that they could get through yet another year.
Well, that hope came crashing down on April 10th when there was a partial roof collapse at the BOE.
The roof collapse was all that the Bernabei/Creighton/Regula Board of Stark County Commissioners needed to get the ball rolling for renovations at the Cohen-Joliet Building out on Atlantic Boulevard (Route 62) so that the BOE can relocate there in 2014.
Creighton also said the "surprises" of the commissioners having to deal with the destabilizing factor of Sheriff-elect Mike McDonald (November, 2012) not being able to take office on January 7, 2013 due to what turned out to be a terminal illness.
While not a surprise, she cites the completion of renovations of the Bow Building (Cleveland Ave & 2nd St SW) as being indicative of how the commissioners have taken available assets (transferred from the federal government to commissioners for $1) and benefited Stark County taxpayers by thereby efficiently providing for sorely needed space requirements for county departments of government,which, of course, makes government more accessible to Stark Countians.
Commissioner Creighton also framed her (and fellow commissioners Thomas Bernabei and Richard Regula) take on what 2014 holds for the improvement of Stark County government in another triad of silos.
FISCAL DISCIPLINE SILO
Creighton aptly defined fiscal discipline within the finances of county government in saying "I have the right ... you [a county taxpayer] have the right] as a citizen" to question the use of county funds and to insist upon self-discipline on the part of county officials on their use of taxpayer dollars.
CAPITAL REPAIRS SILO
Recently Commissioner Creighton went to a County Commissions Association meeting at which she learned that Franklin County has a $190 million "rainy day" fund.
Of course, Stark County is in no position to and likely has no need to have a $190 million "rainy day" fund. However, witness the BOE roofing problem (April, 2013) and ongoing drainage problems (e.g. Zimber Ditch); the county does need to have a "rain day" fund.
Developing criteria for such a fund is a top concern of the commissioners for 2014 and Stark Countians will be hearing more on the specifics of dealing with what the targeted amount of the fund will be and how the county will come up with the money within budget constraints to fund it.
SOUND MANAGEMENT SILO
One of the major faults Commissioner Creighton sees with how the commissioners' of yesteryear have managed the county has to do with their having sat back and waited for situations to develop and then "react" to them.
The current Board of Stark County Commissioners, according to Creighton, is committed to changing that style of management into an anticipative proactive model.
To get to being a proactive body, Creighton says that the commissioners are implementing much more planning than the county has ever known before.
Right now the management approach is "by project" to catch up on what the SCPR thinks (Creighton did not specifically say this) has not been done by prior boards of commissioners in a "planning ahead" mode but, rather, in a "reactive" - "crisis management" modality.
However, as the SCPR interprets Creighton's words, Stark Countians should expect 2014 to be a year in which the commissioners start talking about and implementing plans on which Stark Countians can hold them accountable.
Commissioner Janet Creighton via video: