Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Leadership had it's day on Tuesday, as Stark County Commissioners did the right thing for the future of Stark County. Commissioners Vignos and Harmon joined with Commissioner Bosley to vote 3 - 0 to impose a 1/4% sales/use tax increase.

9-1-1 will now get properly fixed and the county will be able to maintain solvency in the face of growing demands by Stark County citizens for local government services.

Notwithstanding the naysayers who wanted to make "a federal case" out of that maybe the mean consumer in Stark County may pay $75 per year (probably less for most Stark Countians) in additional consumption taxes for a vastly improved 9-1-1 and reliable county services (e.g. safety, election, administration of justtice et cetera.)

Compare this to American Electric Power (AEP) Ohio Power wanting raise electric bills on a Stark County residence (assumming a current bill of $100 per month) a total of $600 plus per year. For what? Nothing additional, that's what! Same amount of electricity, same lousy service.

County commissioner candidate (November, 2008) Travis Secrest (he ran against Tom Harmon) explained to the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) that he favors the tax increase because he agrees that 9-1-1 sorely needs fixing.

In his own words, Secrest puts it this way:
I think you and I can both agree that something needs to be donewithin the 911 system. This much is clear. These changes are going to have to be drastic and would be best with a fresh, clean slate. This of course....costs money. And lots of it. And with the budget situation, this is money which the county simply does not have. Nothing I have said is under dispute, or is something that isn'tcommon knowledge.

I also think that it is time for a sales tax increase in this county.I called for fiscal responsibility many times during the campaign, however the costs of everything has gone up. Health care alone is up 23% from last year. So, in order to come close to making ends meet, a sales tax increase needs to be done.

However.....when it comes to raising taxes, I have a passionate feeling that the process is more important than the end result. I do not believe it is a responsible act for the Commissioners to raise the sales tax without voter approval.
In normal times The Report would be solidly in Secrest's corner. Put it to the vote of the voters. And, even now, The Report does not oppose a vote. However, the commissioners did the leadership thing by imposing the tax under authority granted by the Ohio General Assembly.

Yours truly has been a Stark County resident for nearly 35 years now and has seen Stark struggle and struggle and struggle to keep its head above water. Not able to do bold economic initiatives designed to attract good paying jobs to Stark because it barely has the money to get from month-to-month.

This is what Stark Countians got from the Gayle Jacksons, Richard Regulas and their ilk who have served on the Board of Commissioners in recent years. Let's call them "let's tread water" public officials. Under them and their "think alikes" (someone say like recently defeated commissioner candidate John Hagan) Stark County would remain stagnated at best; more likely, headed towards decline.

The Report believes that Canal Fulton resident and former city councilman Michael Mouse, as reported in Kelli Young's recent Repository article on the December 29th hearing on the tax matter, will make good on his promise to get the necessary signatures to put the issue on the ballot in November, 2009.

As Secrest pointed out to The Report, it will take leadership to get the "imposed" sales/use tax validated by the voters.

With Jackson and Regula (the "finger in the wind" politicians they were as elected officials), there was no chance to get voter approval.

But Commissioner Bosley does have the passion, energy and the mind to convince voters to support his plan. He will need and will undoubtedly get the help of Tom Harmon (who early on was disposed not to vote to impose) and the newly elected Dr. Pete Ferguson to convince Stark Countians to confirm the imposed tax.

After the first of the year, commissioners will approve the merger of the Stark County Sanitary Engineer with the Stark County Engineer's officer which will save the county $1.2 million. Also, the county engineer is much more expert at attracting grant money to Stark County and therefore will bring millions more into the county that Stark would not have gotten with separated government engineering functions.

Of course, the 9-1-1 re-work is in and of itself a huge effciency project. Cities, townships and villages will save big time.

Yes, the commissioners must be efficient. But they cannot "make silk out of a sow's ear." To move Stark County into the 21st century in terms of quality of services provided, they needed to demonstrated leadership and impose the sales/use tax.

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