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MAHONING COUNTY Financial squeeze forces 33 layoffs



Published: Fri, April 4, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Commissioners said state budget cuts will probably force more local layoffs.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County commissioners said the 33 pink slips they handed out Thursday probably won't be the last.

Commissioners learned this week that the state is poised to cut nearly 60 percent from local government funds next year. That will amount to a $3.6 million hit for Mahoning County, said Commissioner Ed Reese.

"It's not a threat anymore. It's real," Reese said. "It looks like this is the way it's going to go."

Commissioners announced earlier this week that they'd have to lay off 33 workers because of stagnant cash flow that has not kept up with the rising operating costs. The sheriff's department laid off 54 deputies last month for the same reason.

"This is not a surprise, but it's certainly not something we were looking forward to," said Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock.

It will get worse

Faced with the loss of more general fund revenue when local government funds are cut, matters will only get worse, commissioners said.

"It just seems that nobody down in Columbus has any understanding of how this impacts us locally," Reese said. "They're just shoveling it down onto us at the county level."

Local government funds are revenue generated by a variety of state taxes. The money is distributed among all of Ohio's 88 counties, which use the revenue for general operating expenses. Townships, municipalities and libraries also receive a share of the money.

Commissioners have heard rumblings for months that the state will eliminate local government funds as part of its attempt to balance the state budget.

Sherlock said the latest word from the County Commissioners Association of Ohio is that the state will cut 58 percent from local government funds, beginning next year. It's the first step toward total elimination of the revenue source.

House vote due

She said the House finance committee is expected to vote on the proposed budget Monday, followed by a vote of the full House on Wednesday. The numbers aren't expected to change between now and then.

"It's beyond our control and we'll have to live with it," said Commissioner David Ludt.

County Recorder Ron Gerberry, a former state representative, said once the House votes, the budget bill will move to the Senate for approval. He said commissioners could try lobbying that body for help.

About half of state senators have been in office for several years, so should be more in tune with the impact the budget, as proposed, will have on local governments, he said.

"What they're doing down there in the House is unbelievable," Gerberry said.

bjackson@vindy.com




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