Thursday, July 28, 2011


Yesterday, the Stark County media (i.e. the SCPR, The Repository [Kelli Young], the Akron Beacon Journal [Nancy Molnar], and the Alliance Review [Laurie Huffman] all gathered at the commissioners' meeting room on the 2nd floor of the Stark County Office Building to hear the monumental decision.

The monumental decision?


The decision was to be made by commissioners on the percent county piggyback tax would be added to the 5.75% (5.50 of it going to the state of Ohio) Stark County sales tax.

But hold on a minute, Nellie!!!

It seems that the commissioners were so overwhelmed with the "rain" of  presentations by elected county officials at Tuesday's work session with information, with recommendations that the decision scheduled for Wednesday had to be put on "rain delay" as in the game of baseball when the skies open up and pour down sending everybody running for cover.

Maybe it was the presentation by Sheriff Tim Swanson who argued for a 1% sales tax increase on a permanent basis and joined by Prosecutor John Ferrero that turned their heads.

Immediately after the meeting, the SCPR caught up with Commissioner Pete Ferguson and asked him whether or not he had heard the Swanson/Ferrero wish for a 1% increase.  Here is his video response.

And obviously the decision proved too difficult to make this far in advance of the cut-off date (August 10th).

The commissioners until Tuesday seemed to be set on a 1/2 cent sales tax proposal to Stark 's voters.  They had been out in the community to twenty-two Stark County communities beginning on February 9th at Plain Township Hall and ending on June 30th at Marlboro Township Hall.

Though they have valued community input, they were disappointed at the poor turnout.  In Canton, nobody showed up.  In Alliance, two people showed up.

Jackson and Perry Townships provided the best turnouts.  However, in the case of Perry, their visit fell on the heels of a torrential rain that caused extensive flooding in the township and affected residents turned out in force to talk not so much about the levy, but about what the county might do to solve their flooding problem.

Some residents wanted guarantees that if they supported a sales tax increase that some of the money would be used to work on Stark County's severely overtaxed (no pun intended) ditching arteries which have gone largely unattended to since the 1980s.

Commissioner Bernabei, speaking to the request, emphatically said that no guarantees could be made because the 1/2 cent increase being considered would put Stark County in a "treading water' mode (again, no pun intended).

The SCPR believes the Perry visit could have been a "watershed" moment (for the third time, no pun intended) where the commissioners had to start thinking:  "you know what, 1/2 cent is simply not going to cut it; we have to entertain the notion of going higher."  

Add to the other community visits (excluding Canton, which apparently has no problems which Stark County government might help with in that nobody including Canton government officials showed up at)  and the many other problems that citizens across Stark County brought to their doorstep and having no money to promise fixes, one would think that commissioners had to be thinking in the back of their minds:  "Are we kidding ourselves in going to the voters with a 1/2 cent proposed increase?"

If there has been "a straw which broke the camel's back," it had to - perhaps been Tuesday's work session presentation and probably the dire ones by Sheriff Tim Swanson and John Ferrero. 

Yesterday, The Report blogged on the Swanson presentation.  CLICK HERE to see the video.

Today, The Report presents Ferrero's case for a 1% sales tax increase.

Coming full circle and in hindsight, yours truly should not have been surprised by the "legislative rain delay" announced yesterday.

The SCPR believes that the delay in and of itself signals that a modification of the original plan to ask voters to approve a 1/2 cent increase is in the works.  
What might the change be?

A full percent increase?  A three-fourths of a percent increase?  A permanent increase?  The tagging of the proposed increase with designations of how the money will be used:  a part to criminal justice operations and administration; a part to fixing Stark's ditches over a planned span of years and a part to economic development efforts designed to bring down the 10% (increased in June) unemployment rate in the county?

Afterwards, the media converged on Commissioners Bernabei, Creighton and Ferguson.  Here is the video of the exchange.

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