GOP chief continues to question Chetock
LISBON — Columbiana County Chairman David Johnson Thursday continued to question the record of Madison Township Fiscal Officer Tiffany Chetock, asking how can she claim to be fiscally responsible when township spending has increased by more than 30 percent in recent years.
Johnson said this is a fair question since Chetock’s record as township fiscal officer is the cornerstone of her campaign for county recorder. “Yet when I look at the public record of Madison Township you see spending has increased by over 30 percent, while the rate of inflation has risen over 1 percent (annually). Why is spending so drastically above the inflation rate?” he asked.
According to figures provided to Johnson by the county auditor’s office, the township’s total spending increased from $594,772 in 2012 to $780,081 last year, a difference of 31 percent.
Chetock, when contacted for this story, said Johnson’s $780,081 figure was an estimate she was required to file with the auditor’s office in October 2015. She said actual spending by the end of 2015 totaled $728,964, which is still 23 percent higher than 2012.
Chetock, a Democrat, said total spending figures can be misleading and be artificially inflated due to such things as a one-time expenditure for a specific project funded with a grant or a lump-sum payment made to a retiring employee, which happened during the period cited by Johnson.
Johnson said while the township spent more money the trustees continue to seek voter approval for a new equipment levy even though it has been rejected twice before. “All I know from looking at their records is spending has increased 30 percent over four years. If they’ve got money maybe they shouldn’t need to ask the taxpayers for more,” he said.
Chetock pointed out again that she is only the fiscal officer, and the township trustees ultimately decide whether to put a new levy on the ballot.
“I let them know where the money is and how much, but they decide how they want to spend and when to spend it,” and the same goes for putting levies on the ballot, she said.
Johnson said he was not buying that argument either. “She’s trying to blame it on the trustees, but they go to her to determine whether a levy is needed,” he said. “She touts a record of saving money. Where did she save money? I don’t see that in there.”
Johnson also questioned whether Madison Township officials were maintaining a high budget to keep their salaries at an increased level, which is something he asked when filing a records request with Chetock. The salaries of all trustees and fiscal officers are based on a township’s total revenue, not spending, however.
“Other townships are propping up their budgets to keep their salaries up there,” he said.
Chetock said the only pay raise receiving during her six years as fiscal officer was the result of an increase enacted in 2015 by the state legislature for all township officials. “That has never been an issue. The budget has never increased enough that it bumped us into another pay raise (category),” she said.
Chetock said all of this is a smokescreen to divert attention from the deficiencies and poor record of her opponent, county Recorder Theresa Bosel, who is a Republican. She produced a copy of a letter Bosel sent to supporters telling them she never received an increase in her general fund allocation, but figures obtained from the county show the recorder has received 2 percent funding increases from county commissioners.
“This is all a sleight of hand to get everyone to look at my budget when we should be looking at hers,” she said. “I’ve had six years of perfect audits. I have nothing to hide.”