MAHONING COUNTY No lawsuit on '04 funds, court says

Commissioners allocated less than the juvenile court requested again this year.
YOUNGSTOWN -- It appears there will not be a rematch in the budget battle that took place last year between Mahoning County's commissioners and juvenile court.
Eva Burris, juvenile court administrator, said even though the court's budget for this year is less than it requested, there are no plans to sue for more money.
"I think we're going to live with this the best we can," Burris said. "It's not going to be easy. But it never has been."
Last year, Judge Theresa Dellick sued commissioners when they cut the court's budget appropriation far below what she'd requested. Commissioners allocated $4.6 million to the court in 2003, which was down from the $5.34 million it spent the year before. Judge Dellick had asked for $6.9 million for 2003.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled the court should have gotten its entire budget request. Because the decision came late in the year, Judge Dellick agreed to accept $925,000 instead of the entire $2.3 million difference.
This year, Judge Dellick asked for $6.5 million but was given only $5.8 million by commissioners. Commissioners cut nearly all budget appropriations below 2003 levels because of steadily declining income from sales taxes, investment earnings and other sources.
Working with auditor
Burris said the court still could use the extra $700,000, but won't sue to get it. She said she and Judge Dellick have talked with Auditor George Tablack about ways to cut costs and find other revenue sources so they can operate with what they've been budgeted.
"There are ways to do this," Burris said. "It's just getting difficult."
That came as good news to Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock, who was a vocal critic of Judge Dellick over last year's lawsuit.
"I thank her, and the taxpayers thank her," Sherlock said.
Burris said some of the court's funding comes through government grants instead of the county general fund. She said that money is being broken out into separate budgets to help everyone keep better track of what's being spent out of the general fund.
"I think that after all this time, we're finally getting to where people understand that our revenue streams are different than other courts'," Burris said.
She said court officials will continue looking for other grants and alternative revenue sources to help fund the court.

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