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Pay raises undermine renewal of Mahoning County sales tax

Published: Thu, April 10, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

With the May 6 primary elecTION on the horizon, Mahoning County commissioners are in the unenviable position of having to justify 700-plus pay raises of more than 3 percent as the electorate contemplates the renewal of a 0.5-percent sales tax.

Why justify? Because private-sector taxpayers still struggling to make ends meet as a result of the national economic recession that began in late 2008 won’t be in a giving mood if they believe their money is being squandered.

In this day and age, a pay raise for well- compensated public employees could meet the definition of the word squandered in the minds of many voters.

As the Page One story Sunday by reporter Peter H. Milliken revealed, the raises were for a variety of reasons, including pension fixes.

Manipulation of an employee’s pension contribution is an issue private sector taxpayers will find most egregious because it could be viewed as rewarding individuals for doing what the law requires of them.

In years past, when county government faced budget crises and there wasn’t any money for raises, some officeholders took care of their hirelings by having the public treasury pay the employer and employee shares of the public-pension contributions.

We have long railed against this obvious budgetary sleight-of-hand and have on numerous occasions demanded a change in the law to prohibit this misuse of public dollars.

The law was ultimately amended — albeit many years too late — to put a stop to the practice, which means workers no longer get a free ride. Unfortunately, in government, there’s a belief that public employees should be made whole if they stand to lose money. Thus, the pension fix — individuals who have begun paying their share of the contribution have been given raises to make up the lost income.

Commissioners Anthony Traficanti, Carol Rimedio-Righetti and David Ditzler can’t be blind to the fact that Sunday’s front-page story that detailed the wallet-fattening moves in the last couple of years has sucked the wind out of their sales-tax sails.

Until the story broke, the only major issue they had to contend with was the reluctance by some voters to renew the 0.5-percent sales tax for a continuing period — as opposed to having it expire in five years.

The tax on the May 6 actually nwill be in effect until 2015. The other 0.5-percent sales tax is on the books permanently.

Financial stability

Commissioners Traficanti, Rimedio-Righetti and Ditzler contend that county government needs financial stability, and that having a five-year expiration date prevents them from developing long-range plans.

But given that more than 70 percent of the county’s general fund, which is fed by proceeds from the two sales taxes, goes for salaries and benefits, voters will be looking for more of an explanation.

Thus, to make amends, county officials would do well to dust off the Peat Marwick study of county government completed 15 years ago and figure out which of the many recommendations have been ignored. They should then publicly pledge to adopt all the changes in the operation of county government contained in that very costly analysis.

One of the key recommendations is the creation of a master salary blueprint for all of county government so as to eliminate the uneven pay scales that now exist.


1repeaters(314 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Never going to happen! To those employees, the contracts are written in stone. To get that union support, Dem. candidates have to make huge promises before the unions will stand behind them on a stage yelling their support. So the can gets kicked down the road again with office holders praying it doesn't hit the wall on their term. And now, they are going to try and kick the can 'THROUGH' the wall to try and get some more of the taxpayers dollars. Turns out that the lady from the board of elections DID really let the cat out of the bag....everyone did get raises while the Commissioners were, and are, crying poor.

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2NoBS(2838 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

The editorial says "Unfortunately, in government, there’s a belief that public employees should be made whole if they stand to lose money."

That's not quite the case. I wonder how the editorial writer would react if the Vindicator took back raises the editorial writer already had and had budgeted for? Would the writer still have the same attitude? I doubt it.

To repeaters: Wake up!! Contracts ARE written in stone! They're a legal document, and all parties who sign them are legally bound to follow them. This is America, and workers have rights. If you don't like it, please relocate to China or somewhere else where workers are treated like dirt and business owners feel that they're better than everyone else.

As for this move to make the levy permanent, we voters gave the county their desired "financial stability" with the OTHER levy, which we agreed to make permanent. This half, we want to keep control of, because it's one of the few ways we have of keeping idiot politicians in line. If you have to worry about the 5-year-levy being renewed, perhaps you should examine your performance thus far with our money, and tell us why you think you need more.

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3questionreality(736 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

"Commissioners Traficanti, Rimedio-Righetti and Ditzler contend that county government needs financial stability, and that having a five-year expiration date prevents them from developing long-range plans."

Dear Commissioners: Try working with the County Engineer to ensure that the roads that serve the businesses that bring in the all-important sales tax revenue are well maintained. Take a ride along Southern Blvd. just North and South of 224 in Boardman for instance. Does that require long-range plans? At least the State of Ohio has sense enough to do this!!

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4redeye1(5675 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

This May's primary will be an intelligence test of the people of the Mahoning Valley. If the different tax bills pass after all the reckless spending that has been going on. Then it will prove just how stupid the people of the valley really are.

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5NoBS(2838 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Nurse_Midlo, NO, THEY WON'T get the income back when they retire!! That's what the furor is over. The employees trustingly allowed the elected officials to hold the pension money, and politicians being what they are, they couldn't stand to see a pile of money sitting there not being used to grease pockets or hire cronies or the like, so they siphoned a lot of it off. Now those employees whose money that was are wanting to retire, and the money is still gone. The politicians who wasted it are living the good life in Boca Raton or somewhere. The employees are screwed. THAT's what "pension fixes" is all about.

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