YOUNGSTOWN Courts, clerk shun layoffs

The municipal court has several reasons for declining to make any layoffs.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Layoff notices -- 60 in all -- are going out today to workers throughout city hall, except for the second floor.
That's where the municipal court and clerk of courts offices are located.
The courts were asked to cut personnel to help trim the city's projected $2.5 million deficit.
Among the city's cuts are 11 police officers, 15 firefighters (which closes two stations) and a dozen street department workers. Even with those, the city doesn't expect to eliminate the deficit until the end of 2003.
No response
Mayor George M. McKelvey noted, however, that neither the courts nor clerk of courts responded.
They can do that because courts have the power to order the city to fund its operations. Because of that, McKelvey, said he won't get into an argument with them over it.
The courts have 28 workers; the clerk of courts, 34 workers.
Judge Elizabeth Kobly, municipal court's presiding administrative judge, explained Thursday why the courts so far have declined.
Kept costs down
For the past few years the judges have increased fines and court costs to raise revenue, emphasized collecting what's owed and kept costs down, she said.
Two part-time magistrates making about $50,000 were cut to one full-time who makes less. Judge Kobly can't remember the last time a probation officer was hired.
"We're working very hard to do our part," she said. "We feel we have been responsible."
The courts have operated at bare bones staff for years and that hasn't changed and neither has the workload, Judge Kobly said.
The courts were given a budget figure earlier this year and told they had to live within it, which it has, she said.
The courts have kept the city's financial problems from getting worse and still got the job done, she said.
That's why the judges aren't considering making any layoffs, at least for now, Judge Kobly said.
Sarah Brown-Clark, clerk of courts, is out of the office this week and could not be reached to comment.

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