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TRUMBULL BUDGET How to fix looming shortfall?



Published: Wed, October 20, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



It could take up to six months to collect revenue on a new county sales tax.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- The Trumbull County Auditor's office is calling on commissioners to decide what they will do about a $6 million 2005 budget shortfall.

The budget crisis has been on the horizon since last November, when voters overwhelmingly defeated a 0.5 percent county sales tax at the polls. Next year, the money available to run the county courts, sheriff's department and many administrative functions is expected to drop from about $38 million to $32 million.

Commissioners have not yet unveiled a plan for how they will make ends meet in 2005. Their options: raising revenue or cutting back on a budget they say is still lean from layoffs in 2002.

"What are you going to do next year?" asked deputy auditor Adrian Biviano. "Where is your long-term planning?"

If commissioners plan layoffs, savings will be greater the earlier in the year the cuts are made. The common pleas courts, however, have the power to force commissioners to fund their budgets, and Biviano said that he believed the projected deficit is too great to be made up by layoffs alone.

If commissioners plan to impose a sales tax, they also are better off doing it quickly, he said.

It could take up to six months from when it is imposed until tax revenue finds its way to county coffers.

Commissioners

Commissioners Dan Polivka and James Tsagaris say they want to wait until budget figures are formally certified before deciding what to do.

"We have to wait until next year," Tsagaris said. "We have to wait to see what kind of budget the auditor gives us in January."

It is possible that tax collection over the next few months will be higher than expected, and the budgeting process always takes place in the first few months of the year, he said.

The third commissioner, Joseph Angelo Jr., leaves office at the end of the year.

In interviews with Vindicator editors and staff, Polivka also declined to speculate about a possible sales tax next year, but said he hoped to make up some of the projected shortfall by selling off county property.

The county should be able to make payroll for all of 2004 and finish the year with money in its bank account, county administrator Tony Carson said.

siff@vindy.com




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