Thursday, April 11, 2013


Yesterday, the Stark County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution approving a 2% pay raise for employees under their direct jurisdiction.

Here is Chief County Administrator Brant Luther reading the resolution.

Of course, as anyone with any degree of financial sophistication knows, 2% is really higher than 2% because when one adds in increased pension retirement payments, workers compensation payments, unemployment payments the "real" pay raise could be at least a percentage point higher if not percentage points higher.

Luther tells The Report that the resolution "affects 49 employees in the 6 departments listed (7 Commissioners; 3 EMA; 2 Records Center; 11 Building and Grounds; 1 Dog Warden; and 25 Sanitary Engineer)."

Here are Commissioners Bernabei and Creighton responding on camera to yours truly's questions as to the justification for the raises.

The SCPR believes that there is a case for having raised the salary for most county employees.

However, such is not the case for let's say those making $50,000 or more.

Higher level employees getting raises should follow the model exemplified by what the Ohio General Assembly has done with higher paying judicial salaries.

Missing from the 2007 - 2009 chart is the pay for municipal/county court judges.   However, they too have not had a pay raise since 2007.

Co-incidently, as we all know, September, 2008 was the beginning of what is now called "The Great Recession."


Nobody, private sector or public sector, has been getting raises.

Folks have been thrilled to just have a job - period!

Moreover, Stark County has had its own particular problem because of the improvident act of the-then commissioners Bosley, Harmon and Vignos in December, 2008 of "imposing" a 0.5% sales tax.

As we all know, the Stark County public reacted in very strong terms in November, 2009 in repealing the tax (by as much as 2/3rds majority) at the initiative of a citizens group led by local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley.

It took a new board of county commissioners composed of Tom Bernabei (November, 2010) and Janet Creighton (January, 2011) and carryover Pete Ferguson (but not a part of the commissioner group which imposed the tax) to restore public confidence in county government so that a "on the ballot" initiative for a 0.5% sales could pass.

It has been amazing to the SCPR that Bernabei and Creighton could do a turnaround in public confidence in such a short space of time.

Not only did they have the "imposed tax fiasco" to deal with, but they also had to cope with the wrap-up of what Conley coined as being Zeiglergate.

For those readers who do not know how Conley defined Zeiglergate, here is a LINK to a prior SCPR blog as a refresher.

So what is next for the commissioners to do to keep public confidence in county government operations rising?

Answer:  Make sure that elected county officials do not get off the reservation in terms of the pay raises (and other spending practices) that they make.

For if they do, there will be negative consequences in the public eye for all of county government and when the sales tax comes up for a renewal in another six years (the 2011 measure was for eight years) you can be sure that the public will remember in November of 2019 and Stark County will all of sudden be in another financial/fiscal crisis.

To that end the commissioners are and will continue to use their "bully pulpit" and are instituting monitoring measures through the Stark County auditor's office to keep tabs on the spending practices of the independently elected auditor, clerk of courts, coroner, engineer, prosecutor, recorder, sheriff and treasurer offices.

The SCPR asked Auditor Alan Harold several questions, to wit:

At today's commissioners' meeting Commissioner Creighton said that they (the commissioners) have asked the county auditor to monitor pay raisesgiven by county department heads (elected and unelected).       

For those under the commissioners' direct authority there was a resolution today for a 2% across the board raise.

For independently elected department heads, to the degree that they exceed the recommended (built into the 2013 appropriation) 2% raise, they will have to find the money within the department's total 2013 appropriation.

My request is that the auditor's department make available to me as a media person a spreadsheet of each and every county employee showing the pre-2013 fiscal year pay scale as compared to the employees' pay post-2013 commissioner appropriation and implementation (of specific pay

Also, please tell me the mechanism you will be employing in monitoring and sharing with the commissioners data showing whether or not department heads are staying within the recommended 2% cap on pay raises.   

Thank you,

Martin Olson/SCPR
Here is what Auditor Harold has shared with the SCPR as to what his office will be doing:
Martin - thanks for the note.  I will get the reports generated and to you.

As for monitoring, the process of increasing someone's pay is all done on paper submitted by the departments.  When the papers come in, the staff gives me a copy and I share with the County Administrator.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Yesterday, Commissioner Creighton (speaking for herself) said that for any elected official who violates the commissioners' recommended 2% pay increase may prompt her to push for recompense to the county general fund for Fiscal Year 2014 from that official's request for an appropriation.

And, of course, Stark County taxpayers can depend on the Stark County Political Report to be monitoring the spending practices in general (not just salary increases) of all Stark County offices (elected independently or not) to help ensure that county government is being frugal indeed with taxpayer funds.

Th SCPR is satisfied with the way the commissioners handled the 2013 budgeting process.

However, there are many unmet county needs for funds for capital projects (for example):
  • countywide drainage/flooding problems,
  • funds to assist in economic development to benefit the entire county, 
  • building maintenance, 
  • department relocation [note:  part of roof collapsed at Stark Board of Election on last evening], and
  • creating a 'rainy day' fund, et cetera)
that remain inadequately or totally unfunded.

There will only be one way for commissioners to meet the unmet needs.

They will have to over the next six years squeeze all county departments budgets like they are "squeezing blood out of a turnip."

Then and only then will they wrestle enough money out of the $50 million plus in county revenues to deal with all county needs, and thereby prove to Stark County voters in November, 2019 that they have earned their trust for the continuation of the 0.5% sales tax or an alternative commensurate with an effective and efficient operating county government.

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