MAHONING COUNTY Officials asking for united effort

Officials say labor union participation is critical to successful change.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Cooperation is the key to making changes recommended in a performance audit of Mahoning County government, officials say.
Labor unions, as well as elected and appointed officials, must participate in the effort.
"If this is going to work, we need to act as a single unit, not as a fragmented group," said county Administrator Gary Kubic.
The performance review, conducted by the Ohio auditor's office, recommended nearly 210 ways in which the county can operate more efficiently and implement cost-saving measures in the general fund to the tune of $2.7 million a year.
But it notes that some $1.2 million of those potential savings would have to be negotiated into union contracts, which is why the unions must buy into the plan, Kubic said.
What Petro said: Ohio Auditor Jim Petro said he doesn't expect the county will be able to implement all the recommended changes.
The report says 1,205 of the county's 1,800 full-time employees are represented by 18 collective bargaining agreements. It also notes 62 commendations for innovative steps the county has taken to improve its operation.
County Auditor George Tablack said he was impressed with some of the recommendations and agreed that officials will have to work together for the audit to have been worthwhile.
The report recommends that all offices use the county's centralized personnel department. Tablack said he's long supported that idea, but it's been difficult to get everyone on board.
Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock cautioned that people should not expect to see all the recommendations implemented, or to see sweeping changes all at once.
"We will use this the best we can, but it will be a slow process," she said.
Judge's comments: Judge Theresa Dellick of juvenile court said she was disappointed that auditors did not interview her and did not re-interview staff members after she took the bench in April. All the work was done while her predecessor, Judge James McNally, was on the bench, she said.
"However, we will do everything we can to embrace this and improve the youth of our community," Judge Dellick said.
Petro said the county has done a good job of operating effectively within its current tax base. A disruption in that tax base would have a "significant negative impact" on the county's ability to provide services and implement the changes, he said.
The county has two 0.5 percent sales taxes, one of which expires at the end of this year. The other expires in December 2004.

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