Saturday, March 15, 2014








As "a public service" (attn:  Stark Dems' chairman Randy Gonzalez) 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 One.

First, a word about Stark County Budget Director Chris Nichols.

On June 19, 2013, in what was somewhat of a surprise to the SCPR, the Stark County commissioners announced at their regular weekly meeting (held on Wednesdays at 1:30 PM on the second floor of the Stark County Office Building nearly every week of the year) that they were hiring one Chris Nichols as the commissioners' Director of Management and Budget.
  • SCPR Note:  Readers, please go to this LINK in order to get background on the hiring of Nichols.
    • As SCPR readers know, The Report's forte is having a healthy skepticism of government as applied to the villages, cities, townships and boards of education that make up the political subdivisions of our Stark County.  Of course, the county government itself gets a continuing and persistent SCPR "once over."
    • The LINK provides readers with an example of the critique that the SCPR applies to each and every action done by the Stark County commissioners including the hiring of Chris.
      • In a recent SCPR sit down with Nichols, one of the things he brought up, was the graphic that The Report used in analyzing his hiring by the commissioners.  And he talked about how a relative is prone to kid him about the graphic
      • County employees like Nichols are favorites of the SCPR because Nichols exemplifies a fully mature public official who does not take offense at being scrutinized and, in fact, welcomes inquiry, and does not take himself so seriously that he cannot take being poked fun of.
      • Unfortunately, the SCPR believes that Nichols is the exception rather than the rule among Stark County officialdom, especially those officials who are elected.
        • It is noteworthy that he is an "appointed" official, although, as pointed out in the LINK, he is an elected Canton Township trustee.
      • More typical of what the SCPR gets (again, the emphasis on the "elected" ones), given The Report's incisive, no-nonsense questioning is that exemplified by Stark County Stark County Democratic Party "appointed" sheriff George T. Maier.
        • It is apparent to The Report that Maier thinks he is not accountable to the Stark County public except for the softballs tossed his way by Stark's mainstream media.
Now, off the soapbox.

On to The Report's Volume One and examining "in detail" the 2014 Stark County Budget.

The Stark County sales tax ([0.5%]Justice System Sales Tax "JSST") was passed in 2011 in a superlative campaign put on at the initiative of and on the energy of, elected in November, 2010, commissioners Thomas Bernabei (Democrat) and Janet Creighton (Republican).

The above graphic (numbers supplied by Nichols) is the base from which the SCPR is formulated upon because it is the "first full year" that the JSST was collected.

Readers are reminded that the county was barely done with what one Stark County civic activist as termed as being "Zeiglergate" when Stark Countians saw fit to pass the 0.5% JSST.
  • SCPR Note:  (LINK for background; Zeigler resigned/retired on October 19, 2011 a matter of about 2-1/2 weeks before the November, 2011 election)
While the SCPR supported the 0.5% sales tax increase, The Report wrote at the time that the commissioners should have put on a full 1%.

Why was The Report for a full 1%?

First, because the 0.5% over an eight-year life cycle is problematical in terms of being enough for base county government operations to be sustainable at the end of the cycle in 2019, and

Second, because the 0.5% does not allow enough financial resources to provide for such critical local government funding:
  • for long term capital improvement projects (e.g. solving Stark County chronic flooding problems because of neglected maintenance and capital improvement of the county's storm water carry off "ditch system,"), and
  • for the fostering of job creating economic development projects.
The commissioners ignored the SCPR and a number of countywide elected officials (e.g. Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero) in the call for a full 1% sales tax increase.

Though the SCPR recognizes that the commissioners had concerns about passing any levy in the wake of Zeiglergate, hindsight does show that a full 1% was likely doable.

The commissioners made their choice and must now deal with the financially constrained circumstances under which they govern.

The Report will not abide excuses from the commissioners of having inadequate funding when the summer storms come and flood out all too many "everyday" Stark Countians and the stagnation at 7.3% unemployment that Stark County continues to be plagued with.

SCPR holds the commissioners accountable to become creative and find ways and means, in the context of the 0.5% JSST for eight years, to deal with the ditching problems and getting something substantial going on the economical development front.

As so should day-in, day-out Stark Countians.

As seen in the graphic above, Stark County starts out 2014 with $10.5 million carry-over from 2013 into the new fiscal year (January 1 through December 31) 2014.

The SCPR videotaped the entire presentation that Budget Director Nichols gave last Wednesday (March 13, 2014).

And somewhere along the line doing this multi-volume series, The Report will make available the entire (approximately 45 minute) presentation.

However, the SCPR recognizes that it is best, given the attention span that most of us human being have, to break up the videos in to digestible segments.

In today's five minute video (actually 4:32), Chris Nichols gives a general background and survey for the 2014 budget.

Also, at the very beginning of the video, Commissioner Thomas Bernabei 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,

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