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Two views of the sales-tax issue



Published: Sun, May 2, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)


John’s a tall guy, and when he walks by, long arms keep time with long legs.

But this past year, it was a long face that seemed to stand out as much, and it was brought about by his concern over the Mahoning County sales tax and funding for his work area.

He’s a deputy, and after the November ballot failure, he was concerned what life would be like for the county if the tax failed the next time around.

The next time around is Tuesday, and that concern that stayed with him throughout the winter months is just as valid — and burdensome — today.

That John contrasts with another friend, also named John.

He lives in the right town in the right home with the right family fueled by the right incomes and the right collection of friends and associations. He’s worked hard for that and has hard expectations.

His expectations are not being met, and that feeling’s going with him to the ballot box Tuesday.

The $13 million sales tax is vulnerable heading to Tuesday, and I feel for the two Johns.

The deputies, who get the biggest piece of the sales tax, also have given up the most in terms of reductions: Floating holidays, hazard pay, uniform costs and more were all conceded, totaling about 20 percent cuts annually, according to our reporting.

But those sacrifices will likely get lost on many voters Tuesday, and instead, the arrogance and/or stupidity of local leaders will resonate. It’s historic and it’s recent:

After the 2007 vote that made permanent the other county sales tax, pay raises were enacted for county employees who were not affiliated with the public- safety needs touted.

In 2008, amid the happiness of holiday turkey, county administrator George Tablack earned a pay raise retroactive to 2006.

In 2009, commissioners blinked first in a fiscal duel with Judge Belinky and gave him the $200K or so he screamed he needed after commissioners told him he was not getting it.

In March, the engineer’s office launched a civil war, and out of that came revelations of take-home cars and the highest hourly wages in Northeast Ohio.

And it continued this week when the county coroner’s office pulled a page from Judge Belinky’s playbook. Amid disputed budget cuts, Coroner David Kennedy laid off one worker, which resulted in idling for 50 hours the coroner’s role in a weekend triple-fatal crash — until office hours resumed Monday morning.

Kennedy’s move was further complicated Friday afternoon when county officials dissected the coroner’s spending so far this year. They found he was so ahead of budget in other areas, that the layoff that caused the bodies to sit was in excess of what was needed. So the laid-off staffer is back on the job.

Huh?

That fiscal brilliance was needed two weeks earlier when Kennedy first announced his plans.

So instead of costing the county a $35,000 worker, county leaders may have cost themselves a $13 million sales tax.

When you talk to Right John, who’s worked hard and has hard expectations, how do you argue about his money going into the above mess?

But it’s not reassuring to look at Deputy John. When he talks about losing the sales tax, he talks less about his paycheck and more about our safety and the few hundred more thugs who are left to roam places such as the Glen and the Valley.


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