Monday, December 20, 2010


Stark County may be headed towards a total catastrophe in terms of its funding through the next several years.  And the plummet may not just be limited to county level departments; it may be on the brink of filtering down to townships, villages, cities, boards of education, park districts and library districts.

As this blog is written, county commissioner officials and county department officials are busy hammering out 16% reductions in departmental budgets for 2011 as a function of reduced revenues to Stark County's general fund as a consequence of the repeal of the 0.50 imposed sales tax of December, 2008.

What's more is a possible additional 30% plus reduction in the 2012 budget if an existing .25 sales tax voted in by Stark Countians in 2003 is allowed to expire in 2011. And that may not be all.

Stark County's general revenue fund receives about $5 million from the state of Ohio in "Local Government Funds" (LGF) and early projections by some anticipate a 10% to 15% reduction in 2011 funding. If this reduction materializes, Stark County could be in for about $500,000 in less money than is being calculated in current computations on reduced departmental budgets. Moreover, the reduction of local government funding has ramifications not only for the county general fund, but also for the revenues of townships, villages and cities as well as other miscellaneous local government operations.

Yesterday on the CBS program 60 Minutes, the plight of non-federal government (state, county, township, cities, villages, public schools, libraries,  parks et cetera) was highlighted.  One of the commentator threw out a figure of $1 trillion in shortfalls for all levels of state and local government.

Ohio's new governor-elect John Kasich (Republican) and the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives (Republican-controlled) are facing an $8 billion hole in the state budget for fiscal biennium 2012 - 2013.

And the $8 billion make-up will filter down to counties, villages, cities, townships, school districts, park districts, libraries and the like in more ways than through the projected LGF reductions.

What will be interesting to see is how Ohioans living in the localities handle the reduced level of government services in the tangible ways outlined above in LGF graphic.

Will citizens just grunt and bear the reductions or will they complain loud and often to elected officials at every level?

At lot of what local government does is unseen by the public at large but nonetheless is critically important to the smooth functioning of day-to-day life. Take for instance, the Stark County treasurer's office working in coordination with the Stark County auditor to see that property tax billings and collections get done so that local government gets the money that taxpayers have already approved.

Units of government that operate primarily on such funds (townships and boards of education) cannot help but be concerned when they hear of the Stark County treasurer (Zumbar) worry about being able to have a sufficient number of employees (now at 14 - down from 22) to actually get the bills out and do the collecting. 

To the average Stark Countians, the publishing of bills and the collection of property taxes is a largely unseen function of county government.  However, if this process experiences a problem; there are consequences to all levels of Stark County government.

One of the primary goals of many Republican officeholders is to reduce the size and scope of government.  And all of this is well and good in theory.  But now that they have a real opportunity by force of the down economy to effectuate a reduction of government, the main question is how will such a reduction play with the average citizen.

The answer?  Nobody really knows.

The further question is - will the likes of Jim Renacci (Republican Congressman-elect/16th), Scott Oelslager (Republican and state Senator-elect/29th), Kirk Schuring (Republican and state Representative-elect/51st) and Todd Snitchler (Republican and state Representative the 50th) and their fellows at their respective levels of government have the fortitude to act on their campaign rhetoric of less government.

These are fascinating times for political observers of America, Ohio and Stark County.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a permanent readjustment (downward) taking place in the lifestyle of the citizenry.  Moreover, it appears that the so called government sponsored and implemented "safety-net" may be vanishing.

The bottom line question?  Will the downturn/reduction in government services be accepted as a new economic/financial reality?

We in Ohio and Stark County are going to find out soon; very, very, soon!

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