Friday, November 20, 2009


The Stark County Political Report has picked up on two alarms which indicate to yours truly that Stark County is rushing towards a financial crisis that is likely to get ugly very soon indeed.

Alarm #1 -  County Administrator Michael Hanke (a pretty cool customer - in the view of the SCPR) openly worries at commissioner meetings about what the year 2011 and beyond hold in store for Stark County if the 0.25 sales tax set to expire in 2011 is not replaced AND added to (at least a 0.25 of a percent).

 Oh yes, the county can and will cut if the a replacement tax is not voted in. But who would want to be a county administrator or county commissioner presiding over the huge cuts that will have to come?

Alarm #2 - Stark County judges (Brown and Sinclair) got into the act of dealing with Stark County's impending financial crisis.

Judge Brown asked Prosecutor John Fererro to convene a meeting of county elected officials.  Ferrero complied and the meeting was held this past Tuesday morning at an area restaurant to consider ways and means to avoid the crisis.

That judges get into this fray should be heeded by Stark Countians as a clear sign that Stark financial matters are grave.

Like it or not, tax issues are political.  Judges, while they are elected and have a political base, are highly sensitive to being involved in political matters.  In fact, they are limited by the Ohio Supreme Court as to what they can and cannot involve themselves in which are of a political nature.

Accordingly, most judges are low-profile when it comes the political.

By the law of Ohio, county courts of general jurisdiction (e.g. Stark County Court of Common Pleas) can mandate that county commissioners fund their budgets as presented. 

However, judges are wise enough to understand the relational difficulties they would engender if they were not sensitive to the overall financial health of the county.   Yours truly's experience of being a member of the Stark County bar for over 35 years, indicate a county judiciary that works with the county commissioners and fellow county officeholders on budgetary matters.

The judges do have courts to run and the speedy and efficient administration of justice is mandatory and they will ensure that the county provides the essential monies to enable them to comply with the state mandate.

The SCPR believes that they understand that very soon now, they may well be in a situation that they have to order the county commissioners to fund their budget as presented.

With the Hanke projected shortfall, beginning with 2011 and beyond; any such order will impact other county general fund functions dramatically.

While other county officeholders will understand, they will be upset and the backbiting will begin.

Being the low-profile men and women they are, the judges' involvement in the revenue generating part of government and politics should be a clear message to the Stark County public that county finances is not a "chicken little - the sky is falling" event.

Indeed, not.

Hanke's ongoing dire assessment and the judges' involvement are credible calls for action.

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