Auditor focuses on fiscal forecast

Tablack wants a clear picture of the county's financial future by month's end.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County Auditor George J. Tablack urged commissioners to "clear their calendars" for the next two weeks to help him work on the county's fiscal forecast, a necessary step toward determining whether the county will be in fiscal emergency this year.
Tablack said Wednesday he expected the county's numbers to show it will have a deficit by year's end, even if the half-percent sales tax for five years passes in the May 3 primary.
At the commissioners' meeting Thursday, Tablack said he has met with a state deputy auditor about the county's fiscal forecast. To meet a goal of having the forecast done by April 30, he must sit down with commissioners, who have been meeting with various officeholders and department heads on the budget shortfall.
Key questions
Tablack said some of the questions that need to be answered to complete the forecast include how the county will deal with shortfalls in the common pleas court and elections board budgets and the dictate from a federal judge stopping the layoff of 62 deputy sheriffs.
Tablack wanted to make the county's fiscal situation clear for the public as well as officeholders and county employees.
"We will carry deficits into next year, even if the tax passes," he said. "We will not be out of the woods this year or even next year."
Commissioner Anthony Traficanti, board chairman, said the forecast is a prelude to the county's entering fiscal emergency status.
He said the elimination of deputy layoffs means Sheriff Randall Wellington most likely will run out of money to pay deputies by the end of July.
He said that information will be put in the forecast, and he believes that will accelerate the process for the county's being put in a fiscal emergency.
Tablack has said the general fund expenditures as of the end of March were about $12 million. If that pace continues, the county will spend $48 million this year.
The county budget commission, however, has certified general spending at $39.9 million this year.
House Bill 462
The Ohio Auditor's office Web site says fiscal emergency protection, originally for cities, was extended to counties and townships in 1996. House Bill 462 modified the fiscal emergency statute to create the fiscal watch status to provide an early warning to faltering entities whose finances are approaching emergency status.
Fiscal watch status is achieved when there is a deficit in the general fund or other funds that exceeds 1/12th of total general revenue funds, the state auditor's site says.
One of the factors leading to fiscal emergency is a failure, for lack of funds, to pay employees that lasts beyond 30 days.
County officials said the crisis in the general fund has been caused by the loss of a half-percent sales tax, which voters turned down twice last year.

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