Monday, February 28, 2011


Ohio operates under the legal fiction that the office of trustee of a township is non-partisan.

But the political reality is that many, if not most, trustees know that they are either a Republican or Democrat.

Party loyalty is a real test for Ohio's Republican local government officials.  At the Stark County Trustee Association (Association) meeting held at the Hartville Kitchen on Thursday, February 17th; several Republican township officials took the lead in moving for the Association to send a letter to the Ohio General Assembly committee considering House Bill 3 which is a bill to eliminate the Ohio Estate Tax.

Problem is that the proceeds from the tax (which kicks in on estates in excess of $338,000), which is split 80% to the state of Ohio and 20% to local governments (villages, cities and townships), is a vital component to many local governments.  Some have taken the prudent step of not including the expectation of revenues (i.e. perhaps an average over the past 5 years) in their annual budgets.  But do include the expectation to fund projects and programs that the general revenue stream (basically, the local property tax and "local government funding") does not provide for.

In addition to eliminating the estate tax (originally set to be effective January 1, 2011; now put off until January 1, 2013), the Republican controlled state government (referring to the legislative and executive branches) is putting out the word that local government funding from Ohio's "Local Government Fund" (LGF) is to be cut at least 15% and perhaps as much as 50%.  LGF "is" put in the annual budgets of all of Ohio's village, city and township budgets.

The damnable thing about LGL is that when Ohio went to a state income tax in 1983, LGF funding was put on the table to get Ohio's citizens to support the income tax.  Another promise that Ohio's statehouse Republicans have made and which has not materialized is their promise that local governments would be made whole when the state's tangible personal property tax (TPP)  was eliminated in 2005 in a phase-out mode in favor of  a commercial activities tax (CAT).  CAT will not provide the revenues needed to make local governments whole on the loss of the TPP.

The "politically aware" very much know that tax cutting is a main political stance of Republicans nationally and the stance filters all the way down to local politics.  The estate tax (or "death tax" as Republican orators like to call it for dramatic political effect - which, by the way in Ohio, only affects 10% of the population - contrasted with the income tax which affects 100%) is a particular target of Republicans across the nation.

However, Republicans serving in local government elective posts know the devastation that cutting the estate tax and LGF will bring to local budgets.  What the cuts likely mean over the longer term is that villages, cities and township will have to persuade local communities to vote in additional taxes to make up for the state of Ohio shortfall.

So local Republicans are in a dilemma.

How to be true to the Republican creed of cutting taxes while keeping their village, city and township "budget" ships afloat?

What they are finding is that it can't be done.

Anna Capaldi, a Perry Township trustee, exemplified the discomforting position in her remarks to fellow Association members about a week and one-half ago.

She asks, "Why am I being taped?"

Answer:   The SCPR has asked for and been granted permission by Association president Chris Nichols to attend and record discussions on public issues by Association members.  Many times a majority of trustees from a given township are at the meeting (for instance, fellow Perry Trustee Lee Laubacher was at the meeting of the 17 and spoke also on an issue that the SCPR plans to do a blog on) and accordingly their pronouncements are indicative of action to come in forthcoming township meetings.

This is not the first meeting that The Report has attended and recorded portions of and it will not be the last.

Apparently, Ms. Capaldi does not like being shown in her own personna being caught up in a political contradiction, to wit:  She is personally against the estate tax, but she wants Ohio to replace the lost revenue with "tax money?" from another state source?

Perry Township voters are entitled to know the view of public officials like Anna Capaldi.  For her to think she can have a point of view on a matter of governance but not have it known "in her own words" is a bit much, isn't it?

Here is Perry Township Trustee Anna Capaldi "in her own words."

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