Monday, September 26, 2011


One of the side issues between Stark County commissioners and some Stark County citizens is whether not the commissioner projected county financial crisis is the real deal.

The likes of local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley (a leader in the "Vote No Increased Taxes" in the overwhelmingly successful repeal of the 2008 commissioner [Bosley, Harmon and Vignos]) imposed 1/2% sales tax saying that there are more cuts to be made in the current Stark County general fund budget and thereby suggests (in the SCPR's take) that the county has once again constructed a scare situation as the Vote No group claims that Bosley et al did leading up to the November, 2009 repeal vote.

Readers of The Report will recall that "the retain the 2008 imposed tax" forces focused on horror stories of several Stark County-based incidents in recent years in which emergency forces lost precious time in responding to emergencies because out-of-date and inadequate structures of operation and equipment.

Moreover, what the proponents did not talk much about was the fact that half of the imposed sales tax money was designated to go to the county's general fund. 

The SCPR tends to agree with the Vote Nos that the "imposing," the horror stories and the soft-peddling of the general fund fact on the 2008 sales tax coalesce to give credence that the proponents of the 2008 effort were trying to scare Stark Countians into providing new county revenues.

As to the current effort to get voter approval of a 1/2% sales tax increase on November 8th, Conley points to what he terms as excessive pension/health care benefits that he says many county employees get. 

His main focus has been on Sheriff Tim Swanson and his failure over his many years in service to keep the benefits in line with what is being done in the private sector.  The idea appears to be that there is revenue in the county budget for the county to operate at a level supported by a majority of Stark Countians and that to free that money up major revisions need to be made to county pension and health care plans.

Conley, at last report to the SCPR, is not supporting the requested tax increase which, if passed, will raise $11 million in 2012 and $22 million per year starting in 2013.  However, he is not involved in a formal opposition effort.

County officials deny that they are out to scare anybody.  They say they are only presenting the Stark County public with the facts that constitute the dire financial realities of reduced county services should the issue fail.  Chief among the reductions will be additional layoffs at the Stark County Sheriff's department and a a dramatic decline of the number of prisoner housed to 122 as compared to a total of 501 potential inmates were the funding at adequate levels.

If one looks at the Facebook page,  there is material for the sales tax increase opponents to point to in supporting their thesis that the campaign effort is a scare tax dominated effort.

But there is also the Joe Friday of yesteryear television's Dragnet:  "the facts mam, the facts.  All I want is the facts!"

As far as the SCPR is concerned, there is a real need for the 1/2% sales tax to be passed.  The disturbing factor about the 1/2% is that it is not nearly enough to get Stark County into activities such as a vibrant and meaningful economic development program/plan and fixing Stark County badly broken ditch infrastructure which leads to much flooding of the homes of Stark Countians. 

For those whose us who are convinced of the need but that it is being addressed inadequately, the question is whether or not it is wise - in the long run - to support a tax issue designed to get the county into a "treading water" conditions.

That is a decision that yours truly has not yet made.

For those convinced of the need but are bothered by the "fear factor" approach (which the SCPR assesses is clearly a part of the campaign), the question becomes:  which is the higher good, resisting being intimidated or taking and deep breath and swallowing hard and focusing on real need clothed in Halloween-esque garb?

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