MIAMI COUNTY — Approximately 125 people attended the annual Leadership Troy Meet The Candidates Night to review the March 17 Primary candidates running for a various offices.
Miami County Commissioner Republican candidates fielded a variety of questions Wednesday night regarding their views on a downtown Troy parking garage and the county’s budget.
Tipp City’s Joe Gibson is running against incumbent Greg Simmons.
W. McGregor “Greg” Dixon, Jr., Wade H. Westfall, and Mark E. Williams will be the Republican candidates running against each other during the March 17 Primary Election. Jack R. Bastian, a Democrat also running for the seat, will run unopposed during the primary election and will face off with the Republican candidate who wins in this primary election during the general election in November.
Commissioner candidates were asked if $22 million in the county reserves is too much or not enough and how can commissioners can justify keeping such a vast amount in reserves while continuing to tax residents.
Candidates responded as follows:
Joe Gibson said a reserve fund is needed to “expect the unexpected … the downtown Troy tornado is a perfect example of that. We have to spend tons of money to fix that kind of stuff after a disaster happens. A reserve fund is always a good idea because you have to expect the unexpected. How much is appropriate for a reserve fund? That’s a very good question. Should it be $10 million, $50 million, should it be a $100 million or should it be you never have enough in a reserve fund?”
Gibson said reserve funds should only be used in emergencies and considered to avoid tax increases.
“I’m a small government guy, perhaps we shouldn’t be having that kind of money. Perhaps we should be handout back to the citizens in the form of a tax refund or rebate …,”Gibson said.
Gregory Simmons shared that during the courthouse plaza project planning, the state of Ohio considered giving the county $1 million to help fund the project until the state reviewed the county’s budget and saw the reserve amounts and failed to contribute to the project at all.
“We are in the process right now, instead of borrowing money or trying to keep our reserves up, we are spending money. We are going to be paying for the plaza project, the telephone project, it’s going to be well over a $1 million. We are going to be using that money. As far as how much that should be in there? I feel like we should at least keep $15 million in there at all times, but we are spending that money this year and we are going to look at other projects to pay cash for.”
Wade Westfall said the reserves are “good fiscal stewardship on behalf of the county commissioners for decades.”
“In a good economy, the sales tax generates a tremendous amount of this revenue. We have a great economy going on right now. There are a number of issues the county must be concerned with.”
Westfall said the county should be concerned with the county’s self-insured healthcare program “that’s starting to drain the county substantially and should be taken a look at.”
Westfall said all county commissioners should be proud of the current reserve fund.
Mark Williams said reserves are needed to push through the economic cycles of good and bad times, citing 2008 when the economy fell.
“We should have reserve, but what you have to look at is the cycle that happens within the county. Are we taxing ourselves, that’s what it is because that’s where the money is coming from, are we taxing too much? Protecting ourselves more than what the (economic) cycle calls for.”
W. McGregor “Greg” Dixon, Jr., said he’s not “offended” by the amount of money in the county reserves.
“The problem is if you start to spend it or start to give it back and something happens where you need money. Then you have to ask citizens ‘We need money’ and once that horse is out of the barn. … The tax rates have gone up recently and we are trying to spend money in a responsible manner and I don’t think the money is outlandish. We need to be mindful on how we spend it and I’m in favor of making every decision based on those reserves and how we can best spend it to benefit all the citizens of the community without having another tax burden.”
A question was asked of Republican candidate Paul Reece who is running for the office of sheriff against incumbent Dave Duchak of what he “brings to the table” that Sheriff Duchak does not.
Reece said, “I bring a litany of experience and background in both law enforcement and military. I bring in the leadership portion that Dave, I just don’t think he has. There’s a big difference between leadership and management, especially in this job. You cannot manage or supervise someone into a position when they could potentially take the life of someone or also have their life taken, but you can lead them there. Provide that leadership through very important areas — providing a purpose, direction and motivation so these guys and girls can go out and accomplish this job.
Reece said he has a plan to recruit, hire and retain “some of the best people we can.”
Duchak responded to Reece’s comments.
“Obviously I disagree with him somewhat with that,” Duchak said. “My experience in the sheriff’s office. I promoted up through all ranks from deputy to chief deputy and lastly sheriff. That experience is invaluable because you are acquiring knowledge from labor contracts to multi-million budgets to dealing with crisis in the jails. That experience is critical. And without that experience I would not be successful. So my opponent served on two different sheriff’s offices, but he never promoted up as a supervisor and that’s a big contrast and a big difference. Experience and leadership matters and I have both of those.”
Other candidates that participated in the Leadership Troy forum were: 8th District Congress, Republican Edward Meer, Warren Davidson was not present; Democrat Dr. Vanessa Enoch and Matt Guyette; 2nd District Court of Appeals Chris Epley and Jeff Rezabeck.
Troy City Schools Superintendent Chris Piper spoke on behalf of the district’s bond issue.