TRUMBULL COUNTY Departments take a hit under new budget
Commissioners are expected to double the county's sales tax Wednesday.
By STEPHEN SIFFand PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- More than 100 county workers could be laid off under a budget passed by Trumbull County commissioners, which slices $8 million off the $39 million general fund.
Copies of the budget were passed out to department heads at a special commissioners' meeting Monday.
The sheriff's department got hit the worst, with a projected loss of $2.5 million from its $9 million budget of last year.
"This is $500,000 more than I thought I was going to be cut," said Sheriff Thomas Altiere. "I have no idea how many people I will have to lay off."
Salary appropriations for many departments, such as the auditor's and commissioners, were cut 40 percent.
Money for salaries at the maintenance and vehicle maintenance department was cut 70 percent.
Salaries for the prosecutor's office and courts were cut 12 percent.
The budget is likely temporary and could change within a matter of days.
Commissioners are expected to double the county's 0.5 percent sales tax when they meet Wednesday.
The half-percent would generate an additional $8 million a year, but because it would go into effect mid-year, 2003 revenue would still fall about $3.5 million short.
"There will be less, but there will still be cuts," said Prosecutor Dennis Watkins, a member of the county budget commission.
Because of layoffs, the county will no longer be able to plow its parking lots, Commissioner Michael O'Brien said.
The engineer's office, which plows county roads, is funded by special taxes and will not be affected.
Monday, commissioners handed out a letter from the budget commission urging them to enact the 0.5 percent sales-tax increase for two years as an emergency measure.
That way, money from the tax could begin rolling into the county in about three months.
To force a vote on the tax increase, residents would have to collect 7,200 signatures of registered voters.
Don Manning, head of the Trumbull County Citizens Action League, has pledged to do just that and get the tax on the November ballot.
"I believe the people have a right to vote on this, and I am going to make sure the residents of Trumbull County get that chance," Manning said.
"I'm getting three or four calls every day from people saying they want to help our organization."
The budget commission's letter also states commissioners should appoint a citizen panel to review county spending and the need for the additional sales tax.
The panel would report to commissioners before the November election.
The county could need another quarter-percent sales-tax increase in two years, Watkins said.