Thursday, March 12, 2015





Since December 19th, 2014 a new Massillon Financial Restoration Plan (Plan) has been in the works for the city.

On December 19th, the development of the Plan has been with the administration of Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry.

On March 9th, the mayor released the Plan to Massillon City Council for its approval or rejection.

On March 19th, council will have had to have acted affirmatively or in rejection of the Plan or provided alternative thereto in order for the Massillon Financial Planning Supervision Commission (Commission) to confirm a Plan at its next regularly scheduled meeting of March 24, 2015 at 1:30 p.m.

From what the SCPR saw at last night's council work session, The Report thinks there is no way council can see it way clear to adopt Catazaro-Perry's proposal.
SCPR Note: Councilwomen Andrea Scassa (Ward 3) and Councilwoman-at-Large Michelle Del Rio-Keller were absent from last night's meeting.
And in sort of way, a council rejection would in a fashion be a case of serving "poetic justice" to the administration.

For in two prior revenue raising efforts by council to get voters to pass an increase in income taxes,
  • the mayor has either refused to support the effort (the first attempt, in May, 2013, before Massillon was put in fiscal emergency by the State of Ohio as the mayor's initiative), or 
  • she pretty much "sat on her duff" as in the case of the November, 2014 tax levy to the voters proposal,
    • both of which were soundly defeated!
Now apparently it is council's turn to play the role of the spoiler which in an ironical sense is likely to benefit the mayor in her 2015 campaign fore reelection in providing fodder to blame Massillon City Council for all the financial woes the city has been experiencing in recent years.

As far as the SCPR is concerned, the failure to resolve Massillon's financial dilemma is all on the mayor's plate and the public should not be buying her  "buck-passing-responsibility-avoidance" that is likely to unfold in her political war for survival against fellow Democrat and opponent for the mayor; namely, J.D. Ress.

Normally, an incumbent mayor should not have a worry in the world at being challenged by a political novice but the word is that the mayor is much more worried about being defeated by the Massillon born, bred and well-known journalist Ress than the the off-in-the-distance challenge that the Democratic primary winner has from Republican Lee Brunckhart in November.

While the SCPR is highly skeptical that Ress can pull it off, Stark County may be about to experience the largest political upset in the history of Stark County politics.

But the analysis of that race for future blogs between now and May 5th.

Now back to Massillon City Council's work session last night.

The structure of today's blog is to go through the video of last night's session in viewable segments (in terms of the length of a given video) and at the end provide the entire video for those SCPR readers who want to take in the session in its unbroken totality.

First, we start off today with a video interview with Councilman-at-Large Paul Manson which is a "summarize tonight's session and where the process now is and what are the potential consequences" interview.

  • expresses his/council's unhappiness that council has only been given some 10 days to consider the plan which in its essence is a property tax issue of 1.5 mills the proceeds of which are to be dedicated to streets repair and streets department equipment purchasing
  • highlights a fundamental disagreement between most council members as the structure of proposed new taxes with the latter favoring an income tax (into the general fund) approach,
  • predicts that council will not approve the mayor's plan "as presented,"
  • addresses SCPR questions as to whom is responsible for council only getting 10 days to consider a plan in the making over four months,
  • discusses the viability of Ward 4 Councilman Shaddrick Stinson's suggestion (last night) of an entertainment tax alternative,
  • focuses on the reality that the Catazaro-Perry tax plan has Massillon real property owners paying taxes to support a Massillon government staff of which a significant number are not themselves Massillon property tax payers,
  • commented on the absence of Mayor Catazaro-Perry from last night's session (represented by Budget Director and Income Tax Administrator Ken Koher) in that the mayor's presence might have b
    • helpful, or
    • resulted in a verbal brawl
As an aid to readers of the SCPR to evaluate whether or not it is reasonable for Mayor Catazaro-Perry to desire to raise property taxes in Massillon, The Report has obtained data from the Stark County's auditor's office which shows that Massillon ranks 14th among Stark County's some 100 political subdivision taxing entities in terms of its "effective" tax rate, to wit:

    The very first person to say "flat-out" she would not she would not support the Catazaro-Perry proposed 1.5 mill real property tax increase was Ward 1 Councilwoman Sarita Cunningham-Hedderly.

    Here is a SCPR video of Cunningham-Hedderly reiterating her opposition.

    Winding our way through last night's one hour session (in ten minute video segments), we begin with the open of the session:

    • Manson talks about his attempt to get council more time to consider the Plan,
      • Informs council he will not be in Massillon past next Monday night,
      • That he will make his opinion known on the Plan before leaving,
      • Sets out timeline for the Commission's next meeting and the mayor having submitted a council approved Plan to the Commission by March 19th,
      • Gets concurrence from council to meet next Monday (March 16th) at 6:00 p.m. for further deliberations on the Plan,
      • Discusses the imminence of 15% across the board cuts should council fail to approve the Plan as is or in alternative form,
        • Stinson:  timeline for council consideration is unfair,
        • Stinson:  Commission really wouldn't implement 15% across the board cuts in that council has done everything asked of it before?
        • Stinson:  "As far as I am concerned, if we don't make the 19th we don't make the 19th, we don't make it.
        • Lewis: Asks Koher about who put the Plan together and how long it took with the question being the basis of his objection to the dearth of time that council has to consider a somewhat complex plan a long time in the making in a 10 day, more or less, time span,
        • Koher: Provides some details on why the delay in discussing a process in which the administration asked Massillon Law Director Perry Stergios his opinion on whether or not Massillon could combine a streets property tax levy with one for police and fire,
          • Stergios' opinion was asked for on March 2, 2015,
        • Lewis: Administration should have presented a preliminary plan to council so that council had a longer block of time to mull over the Plan.
        • Lewis: As things now stand, he doubts he can be prepared on 9 days notice to vote to approve the Plan as submitted by the mayor

    • Continuing on with the video of last night's council work session, the conversation picks up with:
      • Paul Manson moderating the discussion:
        • Cunningham-Hedderly (referring to the compressed timeline - "we are are not Superman,"
        • Lewis:  Where are the numbers for this plan which were provided with the "old" plan.  The lack of numbers, Lewis says, is another reason why council cannot deal with the current plan in terms of approving it,
        • Koher:  "We'll have those number before Tuesday (which would be March 17th, the day before council's deadline for approving/disapproving of the plan),
        • Lewis:  We cannot possibly continue on with this consideration, this plan "is just words, until I see the numbers,"
        • Manson:  "I agree.  There is no way I can get on board right now,"
        • Chovan:  Clearly gets it in saying that with council not having time enough to thoroughly digest the plan will then be the fall guy for causing Massillon departments of government to be cut 15% across the board,
        • Stinson:  "I already have talked to several neighborhood associations in my ward and they already saying no to the property tax,"
        • Halter:  She has had anti-property-tax-increase calls,
        • Cunningham-Hedderly:  Also cites receiving anti-property-tax calls and reiterates her published comments that she will not support the proposed 1.5 mill levy,
        • Starrett:  Asks why is the levy being proposed for the ballot in February, 2016.  She says she is not of a mind to support that timeline IF she were to support a property tax levy ballot initiative,

    • Continuing on with the video of last night's council work session, the conversation pickS up with:
      • Paul Manson moderating the discussion:
        • Manson and others:  talk about a possible conflict with a school levy which, according to Manson was soundly defeated the last time it was on the ballot,
        • Cunningham-Hedderly: "Can Massillon do a Sales Tax?"  [Stergios from the audience:  "no,"
        • Stinson: "How about a Sin [i.e. entertainment] tax?"
        • Stinson:  Brings up whether or not Massillon will receive FEMA grant ($192,000 or so) for safety forces which led to an extended council discussion on that significance of such a factor,

      SEGMENT 4
      • Continuing on with the video of last night's council work session, the conversation picks up with:
        • Paul Manson moderating the discussion:
          • Manson:  Initiates discussion of the 1.5 mills as to the duration thereof and the proposal to put the measure on the ballot in February, 2016 and finally whether or not council might not want to abate the street lighting assessment recently imposed,
          • Lewis:  Notes that the 1.5 mills is dedicated streets and street department vehicles and initiates a discussion how the plan deals with the need to eliminate a projected $1 million general fund deficit within 5 years,
          • Chovan:  Opens up a discussion about staff efficiencies including job combinations, consolidations and outsourcing,
          • Lewis:  Queries Koher again on administration measures designed to close general fund projected deficits plans,

      SEGMENT 5
      • Continuing on with the video of last night's council work session, the conversation picks up with:
        • Paul Manson moderating the discussion:
          • Chovan:  Asks Koher about selling or leasing of non-essential city assets,
          • Manson:  Queries Koher about the fuel usage efficiencies line item in Plan,
          • Manson:  Says he has "a hard time supporting this thing" and that council should push for about a month's extension,
          • Lewis:  If council members think they are going to reject the administration's plan to come prepared at next meeting (Monday, the 16th at 6:00 p.m.) prepared to discuss alternatives,
          • Manson:  Says his alternative is going back to an income tax increase and remove street lighting assessment,
          • Starett:  Agrees with Manson on income tax approach and doing something with the street lighting assessment,
          • Council members in general:  Discussed the numbers and dynamics of going to an income tax alternative,
          • Halter:  Recommended that if council develops an alternative to go with an income tax that the campaign be run by professionals and not by council,
          • Lewis:  Talks about the citizens having spoken twice in rejecting an income tax increase and that consequently he is going to have a hard time getting behind a third try of any kind for a tax increase,
          • Halter:  Pointed out to her fellows that all city employees have to pay the city income tax but that relatively few pay Massillon real property taxes because many of them live outside the city, and "that," she says "is a hard pill to swallow by the citizens,"
          • Manson (and Lewis):  Pose questions to Koher on the actual numbers implied by Halter's observation,
          • Starrett:  Raises the topic of if Massillon does the 1.5 mill property tax levy where does that put the city in Stark County political subdivision rankings of the amount of effective millage that residents pay,

      At the end of the day, the SCPR agrees with the general sentiment impliedly expressed last night by council members that for council to approve the Plan with only some 10 days to mull it over would be irresponsible.

      The entire Plan development process shows how utterly incommuncative that Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry is with council and therefore the likelihood that council will reject the plan as presented looms large.

      The mayor only has herself to blame, no?
        Here is the full - unsegmented - video of last night's council consideration of the Catazaro-Perry Massillon Financial Restoration Plan.

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