Wednesday, March 18, 2015




To repeat the headline on this blog.

Are the "good ole times" back in full swing in Stark County government finances?

Days in which the-then sitting commissioners (Bosley, Harmon, Meeks and early on Vignos [2008]) seemed to be sitting around wringing their hands about the impending doom about to descend on Stark County government finances.

Undoubtedly, an action that he came to regret in terms of sabotaging his own political future, it appears to the SCPR that Commissioner Bosley convinced Tom Harmon and Jane Vignos to "impose" a 1/2 cent county sales tax on Stark Countians.

Well, the people rejected the imposition in repealing the tax in November, 2009.

With the election of Tom Bernabei and Janet Creighton in November, 2010; county finances have gotten much better.

But to return to the question of the "good ole times" returning.

The answer is a resounding No!

There are many unmet needs (especially along capital items) that are not among the appropriations that Stark County commissioners Thomas Bernabei, Janet Creighton and Richard Regula will be in effect making when they approve the budget next Wednesday at the regular weekly commissioners' meeting.

While in prior blogs the SCPR has criticized various county officials (e.g. Sheriff George T. Maier, the commissioners themselves and others) for not being judicious in their spending of taxpayer money.

Maier in particular leaves much to be desired in the choices he makes in spending Stark County taxpayer dollars of which there are many given that Stark Countians passed in November, 2011 a 1/2 cent sales tax. 

There are those who think he rewarded several sheriff department employees with promotions (in some cases "leap frog" promotions [i.e. lieutenant to major]) as a consequence of their having been key campaign supporters in his race for sheriff last November.

The tax which runs for eight years has been termed the Justice System Sales Tax (JSST) and is dedicated to funding justice system entities of Stark County government.

The commissioners themselves have made up for the diminishing of the numbers of employees during "the lean years" (2012 being the low point) in spades in creating new, well-paid positions and thereby pumping up the annual payroll of employees in the direct hire of the commissioners considerably.

Now looking at the chart below (provided by the county), it appears that the county is on a trajectory to have nearly a 50% increase of overall revenues by the end of 2015 fiscal year (red arrow lines and shading added by the SCPR)

One of those hires (June, 2013) however may be paying for itself in terms of overall fiscal integrity and stability of county finances.

That being Chris Nichols who is the county's budget guru.

Nichols is instituting a discipline in the budget process that clearly is having the effect being sustainable in years going forward.

On Monday of this week, Nichols presented the budget which is to be adopted by commissioners a week from today at their regular weekly meeting.


"Stark County is in a good spot financially."(a Nichols quote)

"Maintaining conservative assumptions allows for absorbing some forecast surprises and misses through the years."

 "Just as an example, looking at that 2.5% increase that we forecast in sales tax [collections], next year is an election year for the president. In 2016, if Tom Bernabei were to be election, the economy tanks ... [lol]"

"The directions I was given by the Board [of Stark County Commissioners], the county must live within our means are that we must live within our means."

Which means:
  • Stark County will be holding the line on new hires, and

  • that Stark County under Nichols' directorship intends to stick to his conservatively-based assumptions including the need in terms of millions of dollars for capital outlays, for example:
    • drainage ditch management to alleviate flooding throughout Stark County,
    • county emergency forces radio replacement expenditures, and 
    • county building roof repairs

"We need to come down [in the 2015 department appropriations] at least 2.3%.  At least this is better than last year.  You will remember that last year when we went through this process we needed to come down about 5% from the budget requests."


Mostly mandatory but some discretionary obligations of Stark County government.



Even though Stark Countians put financial oomph into Stark County justice system needs, at 70% of the entire Stark government budget it, the 28 million, more or less, that the JSST raises does not do the complete job of financing Stark County justice system.


Many governments (for that matter private enterprises) dramatically underfund retirement plans.

So if there is a "run on retirements," the underfunder can get itself in a real financial bind.

That Director Nichols has a plan to put Stark County in a better position to fund retirement is "so impressive" to the SCPR.

Governments expect citizens to be responsible.

Well, that cuts both ways.

Government employees work years to build up a retirement nest egg.

Way too many times (e.g. Detroit, Michigan) these folks retire and get their benefits ripped asunder because of irresponsible levels of funding year to year.

Again, kudos to Nichols for bringing the commissioners on board in this regard.


The SCPR's take on the Stark County commissioners as presently constituted is that they listen.

They may not agree with those who make requests of them, but they DO listen.

As a conclusion to this blog, here is a video of Nichols wrapping up Monday's session.

The wrap up includes an entreaty for any and all county department heads to get back to him by Noon on Friday with any comments, objections and the like inasmuch as it contemplated that the commissioners will be adopting Nichols' recommendations at the Wednesday, March 23, 2015 regular weekly commissioners' meeting held in the commissioners' meeting room located on the second floor of the Stark County Office Building at 1:30 p.m.

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