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Money is the root of anger



Published: Sun, January 12, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)


The temperature Monday is forecast to be in the 40s, the meeting room is comfortable, and battle lines between union and nonunion employees in Mahoning County government have been drawn.

If those aren’t reasons enough for residents to attend the public hearing on the commissioners’ sales-tax proposals, how about this one: More than 70 percent of county government’s general fund is dedicated to salaries and benefits.

Don’t you want to know how the pay scales are determined? Or, how many county employees have college degrees? Or, what role family ties, friendships and political connections play in the hiring process?

Commissioners Anthony Traficanti, Carol Rimedio-Righetti and David Ditzler will be asking voters on May 6 to renew a 0.50-percent sales tax for a continuous period — it now has a five-year shelf life — and to approve a new 0.25-percent sales tax for five years. This levy would take effect Oct. 1.

Poor turnout

Traficanti, Rimedio-Righetti and Ditzler hosted a public hearing last Monday, but the weather was so awful that most of the people who showed up work for the county.

That’s why attendance at tomorrow’s session that starts at 10 a.m. in the commissioners’ meeting room in the basement of the courthouse is so important.

Traficanti and his colleagues should be given the chance to explain why they need the 0.50-percent tax, why it should not have an expiration date, and why the additional tax is necessary.

They offered some persuasive arguments last week, bolstered by a lengthy PowerPoint presentation from Budget Director Audrey C. Tillis.

However, there should also be a discussion about who sets salaries and benefits, and what role the formula for determining public pension plays in the compensation puzzle.

Pensions are based on the average of the three highest annual earnings.

Though it’s true that each officeholder whose department is supported by the general fund has the right to establish spending priorities, the commissioners control the purse strings. At the very least, they have the power of persuasion.

The issue of salaries and benefits has long divided union and nonunion public employees.

The discussions get particularly intense during contract negotiations when it’s clear there isn’t any money for raises.

And that’s when journalists get fed information about what select county employees are earning.

One such letter arrived in the mail recently with a listing of nonbargaining employees in the Mahoning County Department of Job & Family Services. The letter was triggered by a recent Vindicator story about the commissioners’ rejecting a fact-finder’s report that proposed three additional personal days for employees of the Child Support Enforcement Agency. The fact-finder also recommended financial compensation for the unionized employees because they will be paying their entire share of the public- pension contribution. In other words, taxpayers have been responsible for the employer and employee shares.

Unfairness?

The union members took exception to a Vindicator editorial praising the commissioners. The anonymous letter with the list of nonunion employees and their salaries is designed to show the unfairness of the situation.

Some of the salaries do trigger a double take.

Robert Bush, the executive director of JFS, made $111,737.60 in 2013. It is noteworthy that Bush was an assistant county prosecutor when he got the JFS job — with no prior experience in the agency. His tenure has been controversial because of employee complaints about favoritism and other workplace problems.

Other highly paid nonunion employees include: Kevin Armstrong, $87,505.60; Diane Laboy, $82,825.60; Michael McElhaney, $82,534.40; John Caroline, $81,931.20; Toni Marie Tablack, $79,684.80. She is one of five employees who are in the $70,000-plus range, while four are in the $50,000-plus range.

Thus the question: Are private-sector taxpayers getting their money’s worth from public-sector workers?

Remember: The median income of a family of four in Youngstown is $24,000; countywide, $40,000-plus.


Comments

1Adifferentview(7 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

What doesn't foul mouthed Carol Reghetti-Rimedio, David Ditzler and Tony Traficanti don't get? Two of them raised our sales tax to operate empty buses in Boardman and Canfield. Now they want another 1/4 plus make 1/2 permanent. Give Foul Mouth an opponent. I think she is up now.

Cut the Fat and there is plenty of it. This tax is all about pay raises. Oh and by the way Tony thanks for the extra 1.5 million the County spends to keep Oakhill afloat.

Cut out the 1/4 and make 1/2 reviewable. But that makes too much sense.

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2author50(1121 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

Bertram, are you not the man, and your paper not the media outlet that trashed many of a person and a group for daring to question the Almighty sales tax starting waaaaaaaaaaaay back in 1997?

Lets get back into the time machine.

Yup -- DeSouza, and The Vindicator went after Debbie Taylor, Tom Zamary, Bruce Paulette, Mark Cleland, Mark Mezeros, Mark Belinky, The Citizens League, Dems 17/6, the Accountability Task Force and many others for questioning how the sales tax money was spent and why more money was always needed.

Heck, isn't the jail paid off yet Bertram?
They still using credit cards at the county level Bertram? They still paying late fee on utility bills?

Imagine how much money they blow with the other millions that they get their hands on from non sales tax revenues.

Don't worry I'm sure you will blame Mark Hanni.

At least you didn't write about Lisa and Tony and the FBI.

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3northsideperson(365 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

I will vote against any continuing levy or tax in Mahoning County or the city of Youngstown. Period.
Put a date on it and come back to me.

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4Knightcap(699 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

The commissioners need to have the county employees union and nonunion pay close to what the private sector pays for health-care. The private sector pays 20-25% of the cost while the county is around 10-15%. The commissioners have a moral and fiscal obligation to the taxpayers to keep the county in line with the people they want to tax. Now would be a good time to break away from that old phrase "pigs at the public trough" and contribute more to your health-care.

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5TERRAPINST(302 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

If Bertam deSouza gets paid more than oh a couple hundred bucks a week for the god-awful column he posts then he officially negates his ability to comment on ANYONE'S salary. Certainly isn't giving his tailor or barber much.

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6kurtw(848 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

If Bertram's column is so bad, why is it that his work draws so many reader comments- far more than any of the other Vindy Scribblers?

I just looked at Franko's last product and do you know how many readers responded- 0, Zip, Nada- (I guess they were all asleep!). Skolnick does a little better, but he still isn't in Bert's league.

Terra, you responded, which means you read his work and that's what Mark and Mrs J. want you do do- they don't care if you like him or not!

The Biggest Sin of a Newspaper Writer is to put his readers to sleep- and Bert NEVER does that. They're too busy hating him!

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7Askmeificare(700 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

1]. Carol Reghetti-Rimedio needs to go.

2]. Vote no.

3]. Re-read bertrams salary numbers.

4]. Call the people making over $50,000

5]. Tell them Carol Reghetti-Rimedio gets voted out, they can have their overpaid jobs for 1 more year.

6]. If you call Bertram, thank him.
......and see #8 and #9

7]. If you see Bertram, hug him.
......and see #8 and #9

8]. Tell Bertram 'Great Article'.

9]. Tell Bertram 'He is the Man'.

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8Askmeificare(700 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

@ kurtw:

Do you know what time it is?

Why are you STILL up? It's late.

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9kurtw(848 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

Also, that's a "low blow" about his clothes and hair cut- I saw him leaving the Vindy building once and he looked pretty dapper to me. Besides, what does the way he looks have to do with the quality of his work?

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10kurtw(848 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

@ askme

I could ask you the same question!

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11Askmeificare(700 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

@ kurtw:

I'm looking for people to insult so I can raise my self esteem and raise my comment numbers.

I'm hoping to have over 1,000 comments by late spring!

You and I are tied at 591 comments.

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12Askmeificare(700 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

No, not tied. I looked at your last two comments to quickly...

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13kurtw(848 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

@Askme...

"People to Insult" That's a good one! I have to admit that's been part of my motivation in making these posts, but I'm trying to get away from that- and try to stay with issues more and do a little more research for each comment- so that I can dish out information- instead of just insults.

I looked at all my posts and there was a lot there I wish I hadn't said- staring at me in black and white (it's not called "permalink" for nothing). But, I had some good ones, too, and the ones I liked best were fact-based rather than personality driven.

I'm willing to bet, it you would look at all your posts- and you've made some good ones in addition to the ones I considered utterly deplorable when I read them!- you might reach the same conclusion.

I just received a statement from the Vindy to renew my Print Subscription- 39 some Bucks for 3 Months- and it's money well spent- in fact it's downright cheap for the information- and entertainment- they're giving me- and have given me over the years.

People have said to me- "Well, why do you need to send them money when you can go on-line for free?"

Well, my answer to that question is that, it isn't "free"- it costs a huge number of Bucks (and they cost money) to run a daily newspaper and, sure, the advertising revenue has to cover the majority of that, but, newspapers all over the country (including Icons like the NYTimes) are in trouble and, knowing that, I would feel like a heel and free-loader to go online without paying.

Besides, when all is said and done, I still prefer reading a real paper- something I can hold in my hands (and lovingly fondle- just kidding with that one!) than a bunch of pixels dancing behind a screen. For the same reason, I don't care for E-books- they're a great convenience but that's about all- I don't get the pleasure and enjoyment that comes with reading a printed book.from an E-book.

But I guess- and it pains me to have to say this because it means the end of an Era I love- saying that you prefer printed books and newspapers over their electronic equivalent is the same as an old codger in 1905 or-06 telling everybody: "Those confounded gasoline Buggies- I hate those things- Give me a Good- old-fashioned buggy with a horse in front of it any day!"

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14kurtw(848 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

Just a few random thoughts about this discussion:

One: I'm going to have to think long and hard before deciding whether I'm going to vote in favor of these increases. I just spent another two hundred dollars having my truck repaired- another ball joint that wore out after only 15,000 miles and if I thought some of that money would go to better care for our roads, I would gladly vote "Yes"- but maybe I'm being overly optimistic here.

Two: Knightcap makes a heck of a lot of sense when he suggests county workers should pay at least 20 to 25 per cent for Healthcare as opposed to what they pay now- why shouldn't someone pay that much for the Care and Maintenance of their Own Bodies. Maybe some of the money saved could be used for the better Care and Maintenance of our Roads, for a start.

Three: Author50, it doesn't really matter what the Vindy said in 97- seventeen years ago: Current Issues- like this one- have to be decided on their current merits or lack thereof not something out of the past.

Four: Terra, I take it what you said about Bertram- "God-awful column, etc, etc, lousy dresser, bad hair cut, etc- indicates that you didn't agree with what he said in his column. Now, why didn't you just say so-giving the reasons- instead of resorting to personal insult? But, then again, I've always said: Consider the Source! Most of your posts seem to run in that direction- not exactly the High Road. (If you were an attorney and used that tactic in the Courtroom- the Judge would hold you in Contempt).

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15TERRAPINST(302 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

He KDubs I' ve shut you down before and left you apologizing so here I go. 1. The Vindicator is unfortunately the only print piece in Youngstown related to local news so here's the logic while do not like paying for my water, if I want to drink, I have very few options-get it? 2. My utter hate of deSouza lies in multiple areas-Completely un-objective-has selected a group of public officials he personally despises who never leaked him confidential information and bashes them without ever having the journalistic integrity to present the other side. His column has been a political advertisement for the likes of Tablack, Traficanti, Gains, Wellington and anyone who opposes his enemies. Why has the disgusting cost of Oakhill or the political intentions of its supporters been discussed by a man who claims to be concerned about the area's high cost of government? 3.He is classless. Despite several of the people who have exercised poor judgment and paid for it dearly, he continually uses them and bashes them for fodder as opposed to working and providing new information. Even people who have died in ruin-To me that's a pig-maybe your Mom said that was okay-mine didn't. 4. He is a hypocrite-Bert deSouza writes continually about a recent DUI story-ask Bert if he has any personal familiarity with that mistake or if he got full punishment for such a charge. Finally he's a lousy writer, just simply not good at it-These are my opinions-they are founded in fact-and they are indisputable.

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16kurtw(848 comments)posted 8 months ago

It's late and I just came across your rant and I don't have time tonight to respond in full but there is just one thing I want to say now:

The only reason- The Only Reason- I apologized to you on another thread is that I made the mistake of guessing at your true identity- which is none of my business- you have the right to anonymity as do I and I should have respected that and I didn't- hence the apology. (Anything else I said stands.)

Whether you're a certain personage in High- or is it actually Low?- places- I won't speculate. For all I know- you could be Alfred E. Neuman.

One Comment: You bash DeSouzas writing but- what you wrote and- more specifically- the Way you wrote it- leaves something to be desired: For one thing: way too dense- hard to follow- everything jammed into one long paragraph. Notice how Bertram- a professional writer- breaks up what he wants to say into shorter paragraphs- A lot easier to read and understand. You might give it a try.

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17TERRAPINST(302 comments)posted 8 months ago

Other than the "One Comment" you obviously agree with everything else, so you defend someone who is therefore guilty of the aforementioned making you, again, the dick your drunken posts show you to be.

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18kurtw(848 comments)posted 8 months ago

Terrapenis, (payback for "Kdubs"!: You just love putting words into somebody else's mouth and making unwarranted assumptions. What did I say in my post that makes you think I "obviously agree with everything else (you said)"? That's ridiculous- but, as I said before, Consider the Source!

I shouldn't expect fairness from someone like you- "my drunken posts!!!"- what is that about- you don't like what somebody says so what they say is "drunken" and they're a "dick". I mean that is So Stupid, so incredibly Stupid!

Again, I shouldn't be surprised. You're the guy that responded to DeSouza's column, not by addressing any of the issues he raises, but by attacking him- bad haircut, lousy wardrobe, can't write, etc..,etc. (in your second post you imply he might have had a D.U.I in his past- as if that had anything to do with the current discussion). You called Bertram "classless". Look in the Mirror man, look in the Mirror!

P.S, Repeating my prior statement: If you were an attorney and you conducted yourself in a courtroom the way you have on this thread, the Judge would throw the book at you! That's for certain.

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19TERRAPINST(302 comments)posted 8 months ago

Kdubs-Beauty on the Terrapenis-most interesting comment you have come up with yet. You totally disregard the statements I've made so the following: In your opinion do you feel Bertram is objective. Do you not agree that his repetitions of dead stories shows a lack of initiative? Do you not see how a reasonable paper might want to have another journalist who has not disregarded public safety and traffic violations 2x handle DUI matters. Do you not see the almost personal disdain for certain public officials and unabashed commitment to others-He continually bashes long-time trough feeding politicians-However folks like the double-dipping Tablack, Sammarone, Wellington-they were idealized. Do you feel he has been equal in his treatment of the Oakhill money pit? You don't have to answer, just curious. Oh finally, do you support his continued bashing of people who again have done wrong, and many paid dearly, in an almost juvenile, redundant way-even those who are now DEAD? Is that at least a little distasteful to you, I mean any of those things less than above-board?

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