Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Last Wednesday evening representatives of Stark County's four largest township (Jackson, Lake, Perry and Plain) met in Jackson to begin action to attain more "clout" with funding decision makers in Columbus so as to avert a local government funding crisis that looms as they use up reserves in the face of draconian cuts at the hand of the State of Ohio.

Ohio through the Ohio General Assembly (which includes Stark Countians Christina Hagan [R - Marlboro; 50th Ohio House], Scott Oelslager [R - Plain; 29th Ohio Senate], Kirk Schuring [R - Jackson; 51st Ohio House] and Stephen Slesnick [D - Canton; 52nd Ohio House]) has in large part balanced Ohio's biennium budget [fiscal years 2012-2013]  on the backs of local government.

Gone is the Ohio Estate Tax (effective:   January 1, 2013) and dramatically sliced (50%) is Ohio's Local Government Fund (LGF).  And there are indications that the LGF might be eliminated in its entirety come the 2014-2015 biennium.

Back in 2005 the Ohio General Assembly began phasing out the personal property tax with the promise to hold local governments harmless on the cuts.

Well, guess what?  That promise was only partially kept and now the revenue is entirely gone.

Officials from Jackson, Lake, Perry and Plain have known for some time that they are somewhat different from Stark County's other 14 townships.  In fact, Plain Township trustee Louis Giavasis tells the SCPR that he, Perry Township trustee Craig Chessler and Randy Gonzalez (current Jackson Township fiscal officer) put together CLOUT (Coalition of Large Urban Townships) as part of the Ohio Township Association (OTA) in 1994.

Other points made by Giavasis in an email response from The Report about Wednesday's meeting include:
  • that the meeting was attended by the following:
    • Jackson
      • Trustee James N. Walters
      • Trustee John E. Pizzino
      • Trustee Todd J. Hawke
      • Fiscal Officer Randy Gonzalez
      • the township law director
      • the township administrator
    • Lake
      • Trustee John Arnold
      • Fiscal Officer Ben Sommers
    • Perry 
      • Trustee Craig Chessler
      • Trustee Lee Laubacher
      • Fiscal Officer Joe Schlegel
      • the township administrator
    • Plain
      • Trustee Louis Giavasis
      • Trustee Scott Haws
      • Trustee Al Leno
      • the township administrator
    • Stark County
      • Auditor Alan Harold
  • that a prime discussion topic was a consensus that neither the OTA nor CLOUT was effectively serving the needs of Ohio's largest townships.  (CLOUT  has about 50 member-communities of about 1310 (more or less) a  total number of township in Ohio)
  • that Jackson, Lake, Perry and Plain function as cities but do not have the option to ask voters to pass an income tax or sales tax in addition to their only other option which is a property tax.
  • that additional revenue sources are needed the larger townships in the face of State of Ohio revenue cuts or they will have to cut services to residents.
  • that the Wednesday meeting produced a discussion of combining duplicative services but seek authority through the Ohio Legislature to create combined taxing authorities to support the more efficient and less costly combined services.
  • to continue to work with the OTA, CLOUT (notwithstanding the thinking that they were not getting the job done for larger townships) to find ways and means for larger townships to obtain from state government the tools that they need to function as city-like entities, and
  • to consider hosting a meeting with the Stark County delegation to the Ohio General Assembly being present to hear face-to-face what the larger townships need that is different from less populated townships.
As far as the SCPR is concerned, Stark's largest townships' structural and financial will not be solved UNLESS and UNTIL they band together to put the continuance in office either Kirk Schuring and/or Scott Oelslager in jeopardy.

The Report is not calling for local CLOUT-esque officials to get ugly or even uncivil.  Both men are gentlemen and cordial and deserve to be treated respectfully at the person leve.  In a word, "civility"  should continue to reign.

However, the trustees and fiscal officers, elected in the own right,  need to look Schuring and Oelslager in their capacity as elected public officials in the eye and tell them they are not getting the job done for Stark County political subdivision government and that its time for a change in the the 48th and the 29th, respectively.

Both have been part of the problem of local governments losing revenues from the State of Ohio and not having the statutory structural resources required for these Stark's largest townships to deal with their unique situation.  And between the two, the current local problems have been many years in the making.

It makes most sense for the CLOUT townships to target either Oelslager and/or Schuring as they are from Plain and Jackson Townships, respectively.  Moreover, both represent Perry and Oelslager represents Lake.

However, the SCPR has seen many of the township officials listed in this blog as having attended last Wednesday's meeting interact with Oelslager and Schuring in a love-in fashion, uttering nary a word of criticism of their shortfalls and therefore The Report does not believe that the locals have the intestinal fortitude to get in duo's faces on their votes on policy issues which hurt local government.

So the likes of  Gonzalez, Pizzino, Walters, Hawke, Arnold, Chessler, Laubacher, Giavasis, Haws and Leno get no empathy from the SCPR on their "woe is me, look what the Ohio Legislature has done to us" complaints.

To say it again.

Concerted and unified action by the 16 elected officials (a mix of Republicans and Democrats) of Stark's BIG FOUR townships against Republican majority party members Oelslager and/or Schuring would have a terrific chance of success and would send shock waves through the Ohio General Assembly were either or, perhaps, both voted out of office.

But it ain't gonna happen.

For the complaining Stark County township officials simply "do not have the guts" to act in a way that the Ohio General Assembly will understand!

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