COLUMBIANA COUNTY Sheriff's entire work force faces layoffs
Expenses already have been slashed, the sheriff said.
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- The Columbiana County Sheriff's Office will virtually shut down next month unless more cash is made available.
Sheriff Dave Smith told commissioners Wednesday he must have $81,300 soon, or he will lay off his work force Aug. 23, leaving himself to staff the department.
"We're at the bottom of the cuts," Smith said, referring to belt-tightening his department has enacted in response to the bare-bones budget commissioners allocated his office.
The sheriff's office was given $935,044 for 2002. It spent about $1.4 million in 2001.
Eight employees, including six deputies, already have been laid off; vacancies in the department have gone unfilled; and the sheriff's courthouse office is closed part of the week, Smith said in listing some of the cost-saving measures he's implemented.
"We're close to being shut down now," Smith said.
The department has 19 people working, including 15 deputies.
Any further reduction in the deputy roster short of laying off all of them would be unsafe because it would require having deputies patrol by themselves, Smith explained.
Little money to spare
Commissioners said they would consider the request but noted the 2002 budget already is set and there's very little money to spare.
Even if commissioners were able to produce the $81,300 wanted to duck the Aug. 23 shutdown, Smith said that will keep the department running only until about mid-November.
He said he will need $91,700 after that to get the department through the end of the year.
Last month, commissioners imposed a 0.5 percent sales tax increase that will produce about $3 million annually. But money from the increase won't start reaching the county until December.
It's possible no revenue from the increase will be collected because a group of county residents opposed to the imposed tax is mounting a referendum effort. That endeavor could check collections on the increase before any money is taken in.
Meanwhile, commissioners are faced with lawsuits filed by common pleas court judges and the county veterans agency seeking a total of $600,000 in additional funding.
Other county departments also are operating on a shoestring, and some bills are going unpaid as a result of the county's fiscal crisis.
Commissioners say the county lacks adequate revenue to meet its expenses.
Commissioners sought a 0.5 percent sales tax increase in the May primary election, but voters rejected the measure.