With Stark County poised Tuesday to vote on Issue 29, a 0.5 percent sales tax to fund criminal justice services, CantonRep.com analyzed data from across Ohio to compare the sheriffs and gauge the county’s sheriff staffing and salaries. Our findings: Stark has less staff, funding.
Stark County voters will see Issue 29 on their ballots Tuesday. It asks whether commissioners can levy an eight-year, 0.5 percent tax on most purchases to fund criminal justice services.
Passage means Sheriff Timothy Swanson can recall the remaining 29 of the 41 employees he laid off in December, reopen the 200 inmate beds in the county jail and eventually return more cruisers to road patrol.
Failure means Swanson will issue roughly 70 more layoff notices before Christmas, leading to more empty cells — and more criminals on the street — as police would be forced to give arrestees a summons to appear in court rather than take them to jail for booking.
Swanson said layoffs are his only option because he’s already made cuts. Most employees haven’t seen a raise in three years and now pay more for health care than a few years ago. Nonunion employees forfeited longevity pay this year to help save a clerk from layoff.
Tax-weary residents question whether sheriff employees have sacrificed enough to justify the additional $22 million in annual revenue from the tax. They contend salaries and benefits are excessive and unsustainable and should be shaved before voters approve a tax.
CantonRep.com sought to add context to the debate by comparing the Stark County Sheriff’s Office to sheriff departments in similar counties and to staffing levels since 2007, the first full year after the county opened an additional jail wing.
Here are the statistics:
The comparisons show that Stark County:
• Has the fewest sheriff employees of any county surveyed.
• Employs more supervisors (chief deputies, captains, lieutenants, sergeants) compared to noncommand employees than peer counties despite the retirement of two captains earlier this year.
• Spends less on sheriff personnel now than 10 years ago.
• Pays most employees a lower average salary than other counties, especially for clerks. Those salaries are balanced with a more generous benefits package. Stark employees contribute less to health insurance than peer counties, partly because the Stark County Deputy’s Association provides its own plan that offers a better rate than the county’s plan.