Friday, December 14, 2012


It is kind of interesting to take in the discussion that is going on in Massillon these days about how to deal with the looming financial deficit.

Depending on whose numbers one wants to latch on to, the projected 2013 deficit in Massillon ranges somewhere in the mid-$2.5 million scale of things.

The real argument between Mayor Kathy-Catazaro-Perry and what seems to be a growing viewpoint on the part of various members of Massillon City Council seems to be whether or not the people of Massillon are going to be given the opportunity to decide the question of how the city increases its revenue.

Catazaro-Perry wants to put the onus of raising revenues on backs of council.

She is adamantly insisting that council reduce the credit that Massillonians who work outside the city get against their Massillon city taxes for taxes they pay to another village/municipality.  Moreover, she wants council to implement a street lighting assessment on city property owners.

It is hard to believe that councilpersons up for election next year would under any circumstances agree to the adopt the mayor's position.

Perhaps there are a few who are suggesting that their incumbency means nothing to them, but we shall see.

Already candidates are taking out petitions to run.  Republicans astonished everybody in 2011 in taking majority control of council in electing four new members (Halter, Lewis, Chovan and Cunningham-Hedderly).  They joined Donnie Peters (Ward 5) to form the new majority.

And, if the petitions get filed, it appears that at least three (Chovan, Lewis and Halter) of the Republicans caucus will have competition from the Democrats in order to retain their seats.

A majority council viewpoint may be forming to push back on the mayor in which Massillon voters decide whether not Massillon is to get a revenue boost in next May's primary election cycle.  The thinking appears to be to place before the voters a decision of whether to raise the city income tax from it's current 1.8% to 2.1% and to cap the credit paid by Massillonians to other taxing jurisdictions at the 1.8%.

To the SCPR, this is a very politically wise position for any incumbent councilperson to support; Republican or Democrat.

If the voters say yes, revenue problem more or less solved.

More or less?

Yes.  The most optimistic guesstimate of how much such an increase might raise is in the neighborhood of $1.5 million.

With the mayor projecting a deficit to be ranging from $2.1 million to $2.6 million, there would be a half a million to a million to cover.

But how?

Apparently, with cuts.  There are councilpersons who presently are insisting that the administration has not come up with enough austerity.

Even Catazaro-Perry's plan seems to indicate cuts will be needed even in the face of revenue enhancement.

What if Massillon's voters turn thumbs down on a tax increase proposal?

What then?

Obviously, additional (to those already made) and draconian cuts will be in the offing post May, 2013, pure and simple.

This is where the "fail-safe" factor of the ballot initiative viewpoint kicks in.

The SCPR spoke with Councilman Ed Lewis about the blossoming proposal which he says might pass even in the face of Catazaro-Perry's opposition.

The Report interprets his explanation to be that he and others interested in putting the initiative before the voters are not endorsing the tax but merely providing Massillonians with a "democracy enhancing" opportunity to be heard on the matter of Massillon government getting additional revenues.

Hence, the SCPR's tabbing such a plan as being in the nature of a fail-safe political leadership plan.

What Councilman Peters (Republican - Ward 5) is suggesting with his statement:
I’m not interested in wasting any more of my time unless everyone is on board.  If the administration is not going to back it, there’s no sense putting it on.  (Reference:  On tax hike, council may go it alone, Massillon Independent, Matt Rink, December 10, 2012)
and his Lincoln-esque "... house divided, cannot stand ... " stance that the standoff between Catazaro-Perry and council is an either/or situation.

But is it a question of either/or?

Should it be?

Does the Catazaro-Perry administration want to put the next Massillon election into a framework that you are either for a tax increase or you are not?

Is she looking for political profit or she about seeking consensus on the future financial well being of Massillon?

Has Councilman Lewis come up in his "let the people decide" with "a third way"  that solves everybody's political problem and, perhaps, might end up solving Massillon's looming "fiscal cliff?"

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