The Republican candidate for Summit County fiscal officer is criticizing the county for not bidding a major reappraisal contract.
Fiscal Officer Kristen Scalise struck an $831,800 deal this year with Ward & Associates of New Philadelphia to handle commercial, industrial, exempt and public utility property appraisals for the 2014 reassessment.
The contract was then approved by County Council.
Under state law, the county isn’t required to seek bids for the work, but candidate Ron Antal questioned why the county didn’t.
“If we’re trying to save as much money as possible and this is a pretty large contract, why not take bids on it?” he asked. “What’s the big deal about getting bids?”
Scalise, a Democrat who was appointed fiscal officer last year, and Antal are running for the fiscal officer position, which oversees property appraisals.
Scalise said she negotiated a 17 percent reduction in the contract from the previous Ward & Associates deal, which also wasn’t bid.
She said the appraisal contract for the commercial and industrial work hasn’t been bid because the county needs to find “someone with that experience and the qualifications to do such a large county. There aren’t that many companies that do that.”
Summit handles residential appraisals in-house.
As for why the county doesn’t seek other proposals, Scalise said: “Statewide, this is how it’s done.”
But the Columbus-based County Auditors Association of Ohio recommends at least some minimal competitive bidding or a proposal process. Almost all counties do that, said Frances Lesser, executive director of the association.
Hamilton and Montgomery counties said they don’t award reappraisal contracts without seeking proposals. (Lucas and Stark counties — two other large Ohio counties — do the work in-house.)
“We think it’s just good business practice,” said Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes, a Democrat. “It protects us from overspending for this work and it just makes sense.”
Ward & Associates also received contracts without bidding under former Fiscal Officer John Donofrio.
Antal also criticized campaign contributions from Ward & Associates owner Stephen Ward to Scalise. Ward has given her campaign $1,875 since last year, according to reports filed with the county Board of Elections.
The appraisal work determines property values, which in turn, help determine how much homeowners and businesses pay in property taxes.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.