Wednesday, March 19, 2014



As "a public service" the SCPR brings to everyday Stark Countians a multi-part series (eight blogs in all) on the "proposed" (see disclaimer in graphic above) 2014 Stark County budget.

Today, The Report presents "Volume Question & Answer (including Commissioner Regula and Creighton comments)" of Stark County Commissioners' Budget Director Chris Nichols' 2014 Stark County "proposed" budget.

Readers of this blog to get a full appreciation of Nichols' presentation should make sure that they have read prior blogs in order as listed below:
  1. Volume 1
  2. Volume 2 
  3. Volume 3 
  4. Volume 4
  5. Volume 5 
  6. Volume 6
    In Volume 1, Commissioner Thomas Bernabei appears in the video and outlines the four (4) guidelines that he and fellow commissioners Janet Creighton and Richard Regula laid out to Nichols in formulating the 2014 budget, to wit:
    1. The county must live within its means,
    2. New revenue for the year must support the operation budget of the county through 2019,
    3. Carry-over funds cannot be used to fund the day-to-day operations of government,
    4. He must build a 2014 budget that forms a viable base on which budgets through 2019 can be realistically projected as being "sustainable budgets"
    After about a 45 minute budget presentation (see Volumes 1 through 6), Budget Director Chris Nichols and Commissioner Tom Bernabei (president of the Stark County Board of County Commissioners) take questions from county employees in various aspects of the budget.

    Also, in the video which appears at the end of this video, Commissioners Regula and Creighton weigh-in on various aspects of the budgeting process.

    Regula has high words of praise for the five years out planning of Director Nichols.  Regula was commissioner from 2003 through 2006 and therefore has something to compare Nichols' presentation to.

    As for Commissioner Creighton, she was at her "salty best" in reminding Stark County employees including elected Stark County officials that the commissioners will not be letting up on their oversight of county finances.

    And finally a note (received by the SCPR late yesterday) from the "lead-man" of the entire budgeting process; namely, Chris Nichols, to wit:

    ... .

    As of now, it does not appear there will be any material changes, just a few small tweaks.

    I think your blogs have been a good and accurate representation of the proposed budget.  

    The only comment/note on an interpretation I would have is regarding the revenue estimates of Casino Revenue.  

    I agree that Casino Revenues are well behind what the state had initially forecast.  In my budget model, I am not utilizing any of the state's forecast numbers.  I am using last year's Actual Casino revenues received by Stark County as the baseline, so the assumption is that the actual revenue received by Stark County remains somewhat consistent to 2013.

    ... .


    The Report joins Commissioner Regula is handing out kudos to Nichols.

    As readers of the SCPR know, it is rarity for The Report to hand out accolades to public employees.  To The Report, they are doing what they are paid to do.  And, as compared to the private sector (when one includes benefits), they are paid rather handsomely.

    Only those like Nichols, whom The Report sees so far as going beyond the call of expected duty, merit special recognition.

    That's why the SCPR wants to gag when the likes of former Canton Municipal Court chief deputy Randy Gonzalez (also Jackson Township fiscal officer and Stark County Democratic Party chairman) wants to attribute to himself (and, apparently, other family members in government employment) as rendering a "public service" as a matter of family tradition.

    While he has been involved in some notable Stark County enhancing achievements:
    • The rehab of Stark County's 9-1-1 call receiving and dispatch emergency services,
    • The cobbling together of the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS), and
    • The formulation of an economic development pact among Jackson, Plain and Canton,
    in doing so, there is nothing extraordinary about his contribution. It has been "all in a day's work" for which he has been richly rewarded.

    Accordingly, Gonzalez has to try the "public service" self-promotion routine on someone other than the SCPR. 

    The SCPR has demonstrated journalistic "due diligence," as a matter of uncompensated "public service" to providing Stark Countians with insight into county budgeting process so that everyday citizens are in a position to judge how well or how poorly the commissioners and other elected and appointed public officials are doing with taxpayer provided resources.

    Most readers of the SCPR recognize the diligence and thoroughness of The Report.

    But because Gonzalez and his friends (i.e. the Maier Loyalty Club) are not used to being scrutinized by anybody, he and his ilk whine and complain when the SCPR spotlight gets turned on them.  Gonzalez, in particular, seems to The Report to have an expectation that media types act as his public relations agent.  And, by way of example, Ponder of WHBC, the SCPR thinks, accommodates.

    The SCPR counts it as a good thing to be criticized by Gonzalez et al.  It is one of those situations that if Gonzalez and company were to say anything positive about the work of The Report; such would be a cause for alarm.

    The Report has been covering the commissioners since 2008 and has seen numerous county budgeting processes.

    The Report's take on the current Board of Stark County Commissioners is that the board is far and away leaps and bounds over any previous boards which have served since 2008 and, perhaps, going back a ways beyond 2008.

    Much better than the likes of Todd Bosley, Tom Harmon, Steve Meeks and Gayle Jackson of more recent times.

    Commissioner Creighton to the SCPR is the leading "jawboning" commissioner in relation to tamping down on several (not all) Stark County department heads and their tendency to disdain frugality with taxpayer provided funds.

    During the department budget hearings held in the commissioners' meeting room in January and February of the year, Creighton is seen to be the most "in-your-face" of the three commissioners for those department heads who appeared to be "gaming" the commissioners on their budget numbers.

    Back in Volume 1, Director Nichols is to be seen talking about there being $64 million requested on what turns out to be about a $60 million appropriated in the 2014 budget.

    The excess $64 million request (remember, by some $4 million to $5 million) highlight the fact that Nichols and the commissioners have their work cut out for them as managers of county finances in staying on track for maintaining budgets 2015 through 2019 that will keep expenses within revenues without totally depleting the carry over.

    With the "due diligence" they have demonstrated, the current $10 million carryover is projected to dip to $6.1 million.

    The question going forward is, and, of course, the SCPR will be watching:  Can the commissioners and Nichols keep the county solvent through 2019?

    Only the passage of time will tell the story, but the SCPR is betting on this board of commissioners and Director Nichols getting the job done.

    Here is the last Thursday's Q&A video (led by Director Nichols and Commissioner Bernabei) with comments by Commissioners Regula and Creighton.

    In order, the first video is on the Regula and Creighton comments followed second by the Q&A session.

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