Friday, September 7, 2012


There has never been a better time for Stark County officeholders and candidates for countywide office to be totally informed about the state of county finances.

Stark County has a history of officeholders who do not show much interest in county finances until they are faced with a financial crisis.

But with the current board of county commissioners, pressure is being brought to bear for them to change their ways.

When former Jackson Township trustee Steven Meeks was still a Stark County commissioner (appointed to replace Tom Harmon) and the county faced a financial nightmare following the repeal of a commissioner "imposed" sales tax (ex-Commissioners Bosley, Harmon and Meeks in December, 2008; repealed in December, 2009) he is shown on the video below expressing consternation that many Stark County department of government heads were seemingly uninterested in the impending county financial disaster.

Of course, we all know the story of how the "new" commissioners (Bernabei and Creighton) were unwilling to put a replacement sales tax on the ballot (on the expiration of he remaining 0.25 sales tax after the imposed 0.50 was repealed) until they felt they had restored a measure of confidence in operations of Stark government departments of government (with focus on the treasurer and auditor offices) post-the-Vince Frustaci theft of Stark County taxpayer money which was revealed on April 1, 2009.

Eventually they reordered the public's trust.  And an eight year 0.5% sales tax passed in November, 2011.

Stark County midway in 2012 is still recovering "somewhat" from the crisis of 2011.

As readers of the SCPR know, The Report does not believe that Stark County government will ever have the capability to fully deal with the expectations of county government on the part of Stark County's citizens because the commissioners "under-asked" in asking for a 0.5% increase.

For county officials to deal effectively with the huge county drainage problem and to make meaningful inroads on economic development, the county needs more revenue.  The SCPR believes the November, 2011 sales tax increase initiative should have been a full 1%.

It will be interesting to see whether or not the light ever goes on for the commissioners that with the 0.5% passed, they will be perpetually treading water?

Moreover, does this set of commissioners (including Bill Smuckler or Richard Regula - one of whom will be added in January, 2013) want to build a legacy of being "maintainers" or will they consider developing a plan to strike out on a course to enable to get ahead of the curve on infrastructure and economic development?

But county finances for now are what they are.  And frugality is definitely the order of the day.

That's why it is mind-boggling to see countywide elected officials (except for Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero and Stark County recorder Rick Campbell) showing no interest whatsoever in county finances as evidenced by these officials' failure to attend each and every county meeting having to do with county finances.

Yours truly heard Meeks et al sound the alarm before the new board of commissioner took over.

While there is no alarm presently with the passage and beginning collection on the November, 2011 approval of the 0.5% sales tax; there is a concern expressed for the most part my Commissioner Janet Creighton that there does not seem to be a whole lot of interest on the part of county department heads now that the levy is being collected upon.

Here is a video in which Creighton and County Administrator Mike Hanke dwell on the point in Wednesday's Investment Committee presentation on the pending drop in interest rate revenues for 2012.

The commissioner concern appears to be that county officials are not getting the big picture on county finances.

As Commissioner Creighton pointed out in the video, it may be that collections are up in a given department of Stark County government, however, that does not mean that "on balance" revenues are up for county government of the day.

One need look no further than the fact that Stark County government as a whole will lose $1.39 million in revenues form real property tax collections due to the fact that 90% of Stark County properties have been devalued by county auditor as a consequence of a state of Ohio statutory mandate that properties be reappraised every six years.

Anyone who has been half way conscious know that the real estate financial bubble burst in 2007 and property values across American have been plummeting eversince.

So it is crucial that county department heads who are responsible for their department's budget be right up to date of the status of county finances.

It should be alarming to Stark County's voters that Stark does have officials that do not seem to be all that engaged.

The SCPR expects and it appears that the Stark County commissioners expects that each and every time an aspect or a gestalt of county finances are being dealt with by the county auditor and/or the county treasurer; there ought to be a full house of county officials in attendance.

The Report goes one step further.

The SCPR believes that it is irresponsible for anyone running to unseat an incumbent officeholder or to fill a vacancy would not be advantaging him/herself by attending county finances meetings.

For yours truly's part in evaluating candidates for countywide office, whether the current officeholder or one seeking the office, the SCPR will be gauging how engaged the candidate is in understanding and being on top of county finances as they pertain to the office being sought.

And each and every Stark County voter should do the same!

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