Summit Executive Says Consolidation Makes County Better
The top official for Ohio’s fourth most populous county says they’ve managed to recover from the Great Recession by merging departments and collaborating with other groups. In his State of the County address today (Thurs) Summit County Executive Russ Pry says they have a smaller budget than in 2008 but still have a surplus. Ideastream's Mark Urycki has details...
Russ Pry took office just before the economic collapse of 2008 but he calls Summit County “a financial model for other large urban counties” in the region…
“We have by far the lowest per capita general fund budget of any of the 6 largest urban counties in Ohio and the lowest county sales tax rate in the state.”
The Democrat ticked off a number of ways the county has been streamlining the past few years. Summit County merged both its health department and building department with the city of Akron’s. And this month it announced a new collaboration with companies, colleges, and non-profits to both train workers and connect them with employers.
“At the county we are the social service safety net provider so if people fall on hard times that’s we’re the ones they come to," says Pry, "the more people I can get off those programs and get to work - that’s when we’d really be having a lot more successes here in our community.”
For those who do visit the Jobs and Family Services Department, the county consolidated its operations from four buildings into one -a former Firestone factory- joining with a half dozen other departments and providing free parking.
Pry was asked about former plans to build a basketball arena in downtown Akron. He said he and Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan have another priority for downtown.
“The mayor and I have talked. There are some other concerns and priorities right now. I think downtown housing is by far a higher priority if we can get some housing options. Looking at some of our office occupancy rates downtown, working together to work on those projects. “
Downtown Akron has not seen the same conversions of vacant office space into housing as downtown Cleveland has had.
Pry also said he has no plans to go back to voters for a sales tax hike for the county jail. Voters rejected the idea 18 months ago and Pry says the jail has been operating well since then.