Monday, December 7, 2015






Fiscal Year 2016 (Canton) and fiscal year 2017 (Massillon) budgeting could bring political infighting among council members to a new high.

In Massillon such a scenario might be averted with the infusion of new revenues if a primary election results in an increase in the city's income tax revenue which would the first since 1977, except for a parks issue passage.
Canton has no such hope on the immediate horizon.

However, there is some background noise in the context of exploratory discussion of ways and means to increase the financial pie in the Hall of Fame city.

Two carryover Canton councilpersons who have lead the fight against outgoing Mayor William J. Healy, II (overspending?) budgets have been 26 year councilman Bill Smuckler (at-large) and current finance committee chair and Ward 1 councilman Greg Hawk.

Here is a listing of councilperson voting records going back to the 2012 budget:


And, of course, inbound 2016-2017 councilpersons Jason Scaglione (Ward 3 councilman-elect) and Tom Harmon (at-large councilman-elect) are exonerated from ownership of the arguable projected deficit of $3.7 million to $5 million.

One of the primary defenses that the Healy administration and supporting councilpersons have to charges of fiscal irresponsibility in formulating and passing budgets since 2010—2011 and the onset of deep, deep, deep cuts in State of Ohio local government funding in the form of:
  • huge reductions in the local government fund itself, 
  • termination of revenues to Ohio political subdivisions with the elimination of the Ohio Estate Tax
  • cessation of the utility tax, and
  • shortfall from promises of hold harmless of monies to local governments as a consequence of the elimination of Ohio's tangible property tax with the passage of a replacement corporate taxes (i.e. Commercial Activities Tax [CAT]).
A source tells the SCPR that Canton has with the maturing of the foregoing listed cuts sustained losses of some $6 million annually (with the full implementation of the state funding cuts) gross and passage of the casino tax which only recently has developed of history for Canton of offsetting the loses with about $2 million for a net annual loss of about $4 million or so.

A 2014 Columbus Dispatch article (LINK) is a good summary of what has happened to Ohio local government funding since the onset of the Kasich administration.

From that piece, this quote from Cincinnati councilman and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate (2016) P.G. Sittenfeld:

And, locally, Canton City Council president Allen Schulman on February 15, 2013:

And, of course, both Sittenfeld and Schulman are right.

But the political reality is that there are three more years of Kasich and the hostile-to-Ohio's-urban areas if not to local government finances in general coupled with an equally if not moreso anti-city Republican heavily dominated Ohio General Assembly which includes Stark County's:
  • Scott Oelslager (Republican—29th Ohio Senate District),
  • Kirk Schuring (Republican—48th Ohio House District), and
  • Christina Hagan (Republican—50th Ohio House District)

Which means, of course, that the likes of Sittenfeld and Schulman are deemed in Columbus as being some sort of political white noise to be dismissed out-of-hand.

In Canton, Massillon and other Stark County financially strapped local government venues, the "blame-Columbus" routine has played out.

Roads not getting repaired, fire houses shut down, safety forces' vehicles being unsafe overwhelms blaming Columbus, no?

Since the state cuts have been become the new fiscal reality in Stark County, local governments overspending their revenues should now be deemed by the voting public as a case of councilpersons, trustees and board of education members being fiscally irresponsible, no?

And in Canton that appears to mean - on balance in voting "yes" on "since the full onset of state local government cuts" Healy administration budget proposals; the following councilpersons, no?
  • Ward 2 councilman Thomas West,
  • Ward 4 councilwoman Chris Smith,
  • Ward 5 councilman Kevin Fisher,
  • Ward 6 councilman David Dougherty,
  • Ward 7 councilman John Mariol (except 2013),
  • Ward 8 councilman Edmond Mack,
  • Ward 9 councilman Frank Morris, III
  • Councilman-at-Large Jimmy Babcock
It could be that the foregoing councilpersons bought "hook, line and sinker" this hyped up presentation by Mayor Healy on March 1, 2012 in his post annual State of the City Address press conference about the thousands and thousands of jobs that the oil and gas industry might be bring to Canton and Stark County which of course suggest significantly higher tax revenues for Canton.

Accordingly, who has to worry about vetting budget proposals?

Here is Healy spewing out unbounded optimism about thousands and thoursands of jobs coming to the area.

But it wasn't long until the Healy-hype was following apart.



The Report finds it fascinating that this now exiting mayor as of December 31st has seemingly had a mesmerizing affect on most of the councilpersons listed above.

Interestingly enough, seven of the eight (not Babcock) who joined in a lawsuit as the window dressing for Healy to deny Mayor-elect Thomas Bernabei (the man who Healy fired as chief-of-staff and service director in January, 2009) the right to change his political affiliation from Democrat to "independent." 

 (Stark Dems subsequently withdrew)

The change part of his plan and mission to right all that is financially and economic development (i.e. producing net gains in Canton income tax paying jobs) wrong with Canton and thereby has or currently prevents Canton from delivering to Cantonian residents/taxpayers:
  • Full strength policing services,
  • Full strength fire and EMS services,
  • Needed infrastructure repairs/reconstruction,
    • For example:
      • Streets and roadways,
      • Removal of abandoned residential housing,
      • Storm sewers
  • Implementation of the Canton Comprehensive Citywide Plan (study cost of $350,000; opposed by Councilman Morris),
  • Having capital for infrastructure improvements in relation to linking the Hall of Fame Village Project (HOFVP) with downtown Canton, 
  • Financing need infrastructure improvements in the neighborhood of the HOFVP, and 
  • Enhancing/fostering the development of the Market Square Project,
Now with the park levy being defeated in the November 3rd election, will Canton have to be dipping into general fund revenues perhaps to the tune of $3 million annually to keep the parks system afloat?

A source tells the SCPR that the deficit picture in Canton is likely to get worse before it gets better.

What has not been fully factored in for FY 2016, according to the source, is the full impact of the loss of some 400 Nationwide Insurance jobs and income tax revenue loses for Timken jobs moving out of the city.

Of great concern to some Canton councilpersons is that a interim temporary budget to get FY 2016 off and running is coming from what those councilpersons think is a fiscally irresponsible lame duck Mayor William J. Healy, II.

Given the projected $3.7 to $5 million project full FY 2016 budget, the question is on the part of critics is: how can council as a whole possibly be considering passing yet another Healy proposed budget?

As for Mayor-elect Thomas Bernabei, he is the one who during his successful campaign to unseat Healy alerted the Canton public that all was NOT well with Canton finances.

That the number could be as high as $5 million is indication that Bernabei was not in to hyperbole (so common in electioneering) when he projected $3 million in campaign statements.

It is amazing to the SCPR that Bernabei was willing to wade into the obvious fiscal mess that Canton now finds itself in running for mayor.

But if anyone can provide the leadership to bring Canton to fiscal responsibility over the next four years, it is Bernabei who has a track record of having done so as interim CEO as the Stark County Area Transportation Authority (SARTA/2009) and in conjunction with is fellow commissioners (Creighton, Ferguson succeeded by Regula) as one of three commissioners with his election in November, 2010.

Short term what Canton will need is the undivided attention of members of Canton City Council members working with Mayor Thomas Bernabei vetting each and every outlay of funds so as to put the sparse Canton revenues to their most effective use.

Long term the goal will be to restore trust in Canton City government that the city lives within its means and merits being entrusted with more taxpayer dollars so as to be in a position to deliver quality basic services to the city's citizenry.

Such is something that the SCPR thinks that a working majority of Canton's councilpersons have not done heretofore.

Some councilpersons might argue that had they known Canton was headed for a $3.7 to $5 million 2016 budget deficit they would have voted differently on the budgets leading up to the upcoming 2016 budget, but were they duped by a slick talking mayor into thinking all was well.

One of the points made by several councilpersons on the election of Bernabei as mayor is that the mayor is really not that much of a factor in Canton government decision making inasmuch as Canton has a strong (LINK to council minutes containing Councilperson Smith's comment) council form of government, to wit:

It they really believe that the mayor in the end has to bend to the will of council, then it appears to the SCPR that they have been will participants in the Alice in Wonderland 2012—2015 which spent like money

Accordingly, council-as-a-whole now owns the problem that they followed Healy on as he led them down the primrose path.

In a practical sense, they will now have to acknowledge that forthcoming reductions in city services were precipitated largely by the strong council's failure to be strong in sufficiently vetting the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 budgets and council's failure to recognize the onset of a net loss of income tax revenues inherent in the exchange of relatively high paying jobs (Nationwide and Timkens) for low paying jobs like the Healy administration touted VXI telemarketing jobs.

It will be interesting to see how council's consistent year-in, year-out majority budget endorsers handle a problem that is largely one of their own making whether as being a "dupee" or a willing participant in the 2012 through 2015 "smoke and mirrors" budgets.

So much for the rhetoric of being a strong council, no?

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