COLUMBIANA COUNTY Officials begin cutbacks to cover budget shortfall

Layoffs already are occurring and more are expected.
LISBON -- Columbiana County officials are preparing themselves and their staff for tough fiscal times brought on by a lean 2002 general fund budget.
Faced with being nearly $2 million short of needed revenue, commissioners recently adopted a nearly $14.3 million budget.
The spending plan is balanced, but it leaves many county departments starved for funding to meet expenses and pay staff.
Sheriff's department: "What budget?" Sheriff David Smith cracked when asked how he plans to deal with the budget shortfall in his department.
Smith noted that he already has deactivated four part-time deputies brought on earlier this year to help his staff handle busy weekends. Also furloughed were four part-time radio dispatchers.
The two staffing moves might save about $4,000 monthly.
"It's like a Band-Aid fix," Smith said.
Commissioners appropriated the sheriff's department $935,044 dollars this year. But last year, the department spent about $1.4 million to operate.
Layoffs in May and June are imminent, Smith said.
Treasurer's office: Treasurer Linda Bolon said she met with her staff recently to inform them "of the severity of the situation."
The treasurer's office was appropriated $153,262 this year, down about $45,371 from 2001 spending.
Bolon said she's considering two options to cope with the reduced appropriation -- layoffs or slashing staff hours. If she decides to reduce staff hours, one tentative plan would entail having staff come in four days a week until June. After that, they would work three days a week for the rest of the year.
Having less money to pay employees isn't the only problem the treasurer's office faces, Bolon said.
It's short about $13,000 needed for postage to mail tax bills that are slated to go out in July.
Although commissioners have said there's no more money available, Bolon said she may have to approach them soon and ask for a larger appropriation.
Other offices: "It's bad," Auditor Nancy Milliken said of the county's financial situation, and that includes her department. "We're down to the wire," Milliken added.
Her department was appropriated $173,922 this year. Last year it spent $213,039. To stretch her budget, Milliken already has laid off a part-time bookkeeper.
She's working on a cost-cutting plan that will involve reducing employee hours.
"I'm probably at a skeleton staff now," Recorder Gary Williams said, even as he contemplates layoffs to keep within his budget.
The recorder's office was appropriated $142,337 this year. Last year it spent $194,937.
Commissioners have placed a 0.5 percent sales tax increase on the May 7 primary budget.
If it passes, the county sales tax would stand at 1.5 percent. The increase would bring in about $3 million annually, but not this year.
Collections wouldn't begin until July.
Even with the increase, "There's still going to be some tough times" ahead, Williams said.

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