Tuesday, March 9, 2010


North Canton is facing about $1 million deficit over the next two years in its city budget needs.  By Ohio law, neither Ohio nor its political subdivision can run a deficit like the federal government does.

So what is the alternative?

Cutting employees, making employees take less in benefits (e.g. paying larger deductibles, et cetera) services and a combination of the three - that is what the alternative is.

One of the strategies in big time play in Ohio government circles these days is the performance audit.  The proponents of the performance audit present it as if it is a "real" remedy for all that ails government in terms of struggles of balancing the budget.

But is it?

The SCPR says it is not.

Every little bit helps, but the results of performance audits show that only about 15% (on average) of audit recommendations are actually implemented.

Some of the recommendations are impractical and seem, too many times, to carry the burden of political bias.

Political bias?

Yes, The Report believes that many times the supposedly "objective" audit is a subterfuge for reining in unions and their contracts.  Republicans generally are known for not being organized labor friendly and the press of a down economy presents a golden opportunity for Republicans to depress middle income and working class wages/salaries because the volume of workers is the best opportunity for governments to get well in a hurry.

But there are Democrats who buy into the unfairly placing of the "balancing the budget" burden on folks who do not have much to give. 

Who is Mayor William J. Healy (a Democrat who seems to have a Republican point-of-view when it comes to working class folks) going after to balance his administration's budget?  Firefighters, policemen, and unionized office workers, that's who!

The SCPR supports government efficiency, but the supposedly "objectively" arrived at audit recommendations should not be a vehicle to advance a political agenda.

Ohio's auditor - Mary Taylor - is Ohio's biggest proponent of performance audits.  Because she is a politicized person; her agency is not ideally suited to doing "objective" audits.

It is well known that most Republicans support a "smaller" government.  And that is all well and good.  But they should stand front and center and tell voters that, if elected, what they will cut and how voters will be affected.

Representative Todd Snitchler (Republican - Lake) is Stark County's leading proponent of performance audits while at the same time advocating a 44% reduction (eliminating Ohio's income tax - House Bill 400) in state revenues.  Doesn't seem as if Snitchler has much of a grip on reality, does it?

Here is the list of the sponsors of Snitchler's House Bill 65 which proposes to set up a state audit of state agencies.  Hmm?  A state audit of state agencies?

If Ohio is to do audits, Ohioans cannot trust a politicized Auditor of State to do the job, whether the office is controlled by Republicans or Democrats.  Neither side should be able to use a structure of the people to single out the other side's adherents for special "carry the burden" treatment.  Just like in war, the sons, daughters of the rich, the poor and the in between should share equally in the burden of war.  No Bill Clintons and Dick Cheney with their deferments.

A Democrat (let's say left-of-center, as many elected Democrats seem to be - especially at the state and federal level) would bring his/her own set of political bias (burden the well-off, business and industry) in making recommendations and therefore would have the same problem in getting implementation as the Republicans are having now (remember the 15% on average implementation).

Implementation of audit recommendations IS THE PROBLEM!

The SCPR does support performance audits if done by a civil service-esque agency of government, or, alternatively, a non-profit performance auditing organization that is recognized by Republicans, Democrats and independents of having no political bias and calls for changes that call for sacrifices that are shared by all; not largely by politically unfavored groups.

But a bill with 17 sponsors and only one Democrat?  Snitchler likes to point to an Ohio Senate version of the bill which passed recently without one nay vote as indication of bipartisan support.

But it isn't.  Senate Democrats know that the bill as a whole will not pass the Ohio General Assembly.  So Senate Democrats can signal that Democrats in the Ohio General Assembly support the concept of performance audits, but just not Snitchler's offering.

On March 4th, the Snitchler campaign used a Stark County District Library facility (the Lake Branch) to present his what appears to be the backbone of his campaign - the performance audit issue - for re-election to the Ohio House - 50th in an "objective" setting.  One of the participants in the Snitchler event was Representative Ron Amstutz (Republican - Wooster).  A curiosity?  Why isn't Amstutz one of HB 65's sponsors?

The presentation was slick, but did show - to the discerning - real problems.  Talk centered on Ohioans/Stark Countians and affected government workers having the "will" to accept changes recommended.

The Report even agrees in talking in terms of "having the will."   However, "having the will" is a non-starter if the recommenders-in-chief are perceived to have a political bias as to who bears the brunt of the "new" efficiencies.

Representative Snitchler has a good idea.  However, for it to have much of a chance, he will have to structure his bill to have audits done by someone other than the Auditor of State.  And that someone will have to be perceived as being consummately fair.

One of the key supporters of Snitchler's performance-audit-based campaigne is North Canton president of North Canton City Council - Republican Daryl Revoldt.  The SCPR videotaped Revoldt's presentation which is presented at the end of this blog.  Revoldt tells of North Canton paying $60,000 (the number was acutally $68,000) to Taylor's office for its audit.  However, that cost is not the end of the matter.  North Canton has hired a Stark accounting firm (at a cost of $15,000 and perhaps more) to get "implementation" advice from the local audit firm of Brunner Cox LLP with Perry Township Republican trustee Anna Capaldi  (who works for Brunner Cox) "just happening" to be the auditor.

When queried by the SCPR about the "co-incidence" of Republican Capaldi being the auditor, North Canton Mayor David Held (Republican) said that the political connection had nothing to do with the hiring.  Hmm?

Watch and listen carefully to the following video.  For if you do, you shall see by Revoldt's own words that performance audits are no panacea for budget woes.  Moreover, notice who is bearing the burden of the savings.  Is this a fair distribution of the burden?

Here is the Daryl Revoldt video:


1 comment:

Dennis J. Lindower said...

Marty, You have made an excellent point. I see this performance audit "fad" as probably being short-lived. Again, your point of who is bearing the burden of these "savings" is much to concentrated and not significant enough (even as Mr. Revoldt states) to bail the City out. Great reading. Thank you for the article! Dennis Lindower