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The Suburbanite
  • County can finally look ahead

  • The issue: Stark County government finances

    Our view: As bottom line improves, officials can set longer-term priorities

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  • The issue: Stark County government finances
    Our view: As bottom line improves, officials can set longer-term priorities
    Stark County government is in its best position in years to attend to its infrastructure and other long-term responsibilities.
    As commissioners hold their annual budget hearings with department heads, we’ve seen two promising signs that the county’s future needs will get some healthy attention this year.
    Last week, Auditor Alan Harold asked county commissioners to set aside money for infrastructure and capital improvement projects. He also wants a kind of rainy-day fund to be established; it would be tapped only in the event that revenue declines for some unforeseen reason.
    Meanwhile, commissioners have asked their fellow officeholders to do a little extra homework for the budget meetings.
    They want to know about the equipment and maintenance issues that each office will need to address through 2018. Commissioners then plan to amass a priority list of larger projects.
    For the past several years, commissioners and other officeholders would not have been able to consider any of these possibilities, let alone all of them. Money was too tight.
    But revenue from the new sales tax and from real estate fees is increasing as the economy improves. Department heads also spent $2 million less in 2012 than had been appropriated for their offices.
    Along with investment income and profit-sharing from Ohio’s new casinos, this left Stark County government with $7.7 million unspent at the end of last year, not all of which will be needed to fund first-quarter 2013 operations.
    So county officials now can look at longer-term priorities with more assurance that the money to fund them will be there. This is what good planning looks like, and we’re glad to see it.