Tuesday, May 23, 2017



Over the past 3.3 years, the cost of Stark County government has risen about $10 million annually.

However, Stark County citizens should not hold the commissioners responsible for a significant part of the $10 million inasmuch they have no play in those parts funded by the federal and state of Ohio governments.

Though I am not aware of the authority of the courts to order the commissioners to fund court operations at a level mandated by the courts themselves; the commissioners are vulnerable "as a matter of Ohio law" to being ordered to fund as dictated by the courts themselves.

There are three categories of county government expenses:
  • those which the commissioners have "direct"  responsibility,
    • e.g. the operations of the commissioners' office itself,
  • those which the commissioners have "indirect" responsibility by virtue of being the county budgeting/appropriation authority
    • e.g. the Stark County auditor's office, the sheriff's office, the coroner's office and the like for which the commissioner approve/disapprove budgeting requests by way of appropriating or not appropriating county revenues for spending by various county offices/functions,
  • those which the commissioners have no responsibility for whatsoever and which are not funded out of county revenues but rather by federal/state funds or by enterprise generated revenues
Over the objection of county budget director/financial manager Chris NIchols (himself, a commissioners'  "direct" employee, see LINK, May 9th), I have included all three categories listed above as being at one level or another funded (county, state, federal taxes and user fees) by us—the taxpayers, or users of various government services (enterprise funded entities).

As I see Nichols' objection, it is an attempt to complicate the overall fiscal picture of county level of government in order to obscure what government actually costs us taxpayers at one level or another.

Readers of the SCPR know that this blog goes to great length to present an accurate picture of material opinionated upon in this blog.

Accordingly, in this series I make the distinctions outlined above.

In each blog, I will link up with prior blogs so that readers can track from the current blog what I have had to say in prior blogs on Stark County government accountability.
I do this in order to dispel any notion that The Stark County Political Report endeavors in any way, shape or form to not tell the full story of the employee operation expenses for those county government functions covered in this series.

Today's blog covers the Stark County auditor's office headed by Alan Harold.

Harold, elected, in November 2012 took office by virtue of a timetable set by Ohio statutory law on March 14, 2011.

So by January, 2014 Harold's imprimatur of holding office was firmly stamped upon the Stark County auditor's office.

In January, 2014 Harold's office had 92 employees including eleven (a combination of full and part-time workers) Bureau of Motor Vehicle (License Bureau) employees.

But these employees are likely "enterprise" employees in that typically the bureau collected at that time (2014) some $400,000 in revenue used, among other expenditures to pay the eleven and provide some $50,000 annually ultimately to the Stark County general fund.

A search of a May 4, 2017 county employee database shows that three of the eleven are now "direct" employees of Stark County government.

One in employed with Harold's office and two with the Stark County clerk of courts headed up by recently elected (originally appointed by the Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee to replace the retiring-early Nancy Reinbold.

Harold with the approval of the Stark County commissioners jettisoned the bureau for the reason that he at county expense had to post a bond to cover any liability incidents that might occur in the bureau which which hold harmless/indemnification liability would be on Harold.

My overall evaluation Harold's stewardship of the county auditor's office is positive.

He has both downsized core operations of the office and expanded a particular aspect of what the office does for county government.


The "core" functions include:
  • Auditor (general administration)
  • Auditor Appraisal
  • Auditor Fiscal Administration
  • Auditor Property/Estate Tax
  • Auditor Tax Map
  • Auditor Transfers
  • Auditor Weights & Measures
In January, 2014 there were 82 taxpayer paid for jobs sprinkled through out these operations of the office.

By the end of April, 2017 there were 59 of such positions.

And, according to a recent e-mail from Stark's auditor, the total will recede to 56, to wit:

Alan C. Harold <acharold@starkcountyohio.gov>  May 9 at 1:09 PM 
To:  Martin Olson 
Hi Martin - I show on May 3, 2017, I paid 81 employees.  Of those, two no longer work here (Covey, new job in City of Massillon and not being replaced; Murray, seasonal dog tag entry and work is finished) and their being paid is a reflection of the two week lag in how all county employees are paid.  Additionally, Doug Thorn is retiring at end of May and no hire is planned.  In IT, McBurney is retiring at the end of this year and his replacement (Korte) has been with us for about two months now.
The employment total reduction was aided greatly by the abandonment of the eleven full/part-time license bureau at the cost of $50,000 going into the Stark County general fund at the end of the day.

It is understandable that Harold would not want be potentially liable for a misfire at license bureau considering that running a license burieau is not a traditional auditor's office function.

Downsizing of government with no loss of service on basic functions of that level of government is a sign of highly effective management.


Not so impressive, is the increase in the overall expense in running the auditor's office.

It appears that the increase is due to two factors:
  1. Expansion of the staffing of the Information Technology, and
  2. Pay raises to office employees in excess of the standard set back in 2011/2012 by then commissioners Bernabei, Creighton and Regula at 2% per ye,ar to be meted out as the office head saw fit.

When Harold took over, Stark County's technology infrastructure was pathetic.

While Harold's predecessor Kim Perez shepherded a major advance in the county Graphic Information System, he doesn't appear to have kept the county apace with available advanced/improved information technology.

I recall commissioners regular Wednesday public meetings that included discussions between Harold's IT Center leadership and commissions in which it came out that much of the county's IT infrastructure was inadequate for effective intra-county communication.

It could be that money resources were the problem for Perez inasmuch as in 2009, 2010 and 2011 Stark County faced major financial shortfalls.

For whatever reason, Harold has picked up with technological infrastructure modernization.  But the improvement has been at a salary expense increase and an increase in the size of the IT Center which, of course, has resulted in counter trend to the reduction in other auditor office functions detailed above.

Here was IT Center as it existed on January 1, 2014 as compared to today:

From 2014 to 2017, the IT Center cost has accelerated by $382,758.

Remember though, McBurney will be retiring at the end of 2017 and Korte will be picking for his position at about $20,000 less per year in salary.


First, the non-IT Center pay raises:

Next, IT Center employees:

The moral of the employment expense increase story is that although Harold has done an excellent job of paring down the overall number of employees needed to get the auditor office functions done in an effective way; the cost of pay increases for both non-IT Center/IT Center employees in excess of the Stark County commissioner recommended 2% per annum (7.5% over 3.3 years) expectation is a contributing reason coalescing with the increased number IT Center employees, Harold's office is costing Stark County taxpayers more in 2017 than in 2014 notwithstanding the substantial reduction in the number non-IT Center employees and the elimination of the license bureau employees.

Here is Auditor Harold's reaction to the SCPR's interpretation of the auditor office employment numbers.

Alan C. Harold <acharold@starkcountyohio.gov>  May 22 at 3:48 PM

To:  Martin Olson

Martin – thanks for the note, and note my comments do not include any figures or references to the BMV.

Rather than measure individual employee salary changes as you lay out, I measure organizational salary changes and try better to keep those costs in line.  For instance, if you look at the last pay of 2013 (12/31/2013), I paid my employees $140,702.19.  On the most recent bi-weekly pay (5/17/2017), I paid my employees $145,481.47, or a difference of +3.4%.  In fact, when you net out planned two departures due to retirement (Thorn at 5/31 – will not be replaced; McBurney at 12/31 – already replaced), the bi-weekly pay drops to $141,251.39, which is +.39% from 12/31/2013 and -1.5% from 12/31/2010.  No one else in the county can claim to be running their office on the same dollars as four years ago or less than seven years ago.  In this respect, I think I have met the Commissioners’ request with room to spare.  And while my core office functions remain the same as four years ago, the role of IT/GIS has and continues to expand greatly.

Specifically at IT/GIS, my challenges to find qualified talent have been well-documented on the public record.  McBurney’s replacement, for instance, took us about 18 months and three separate public postings to find a qualified candidate.  Also at IT, it took us about nine months to hire a new developer.  GIS encounters similar problems, but not to the same extent.  It’s an employee’s market in these technical areas and I’m glad we’ve a) been able to retain the talent we have (though that comes at a cost) and b) attract the talent we have (also at a cost).

And at 12/31/2013, I paid 84 employees; it was 80 employees (headed to 79 in a month with Thorn’s retirement) last pay.  I’m certainly mindful of the head count from the employee benefits perspective and am grateful to my staff who always look to be more efficient in how we carry out our mission.


No comments: