Commissioners cancel court budget addition

Judges can order the officials to give them the money.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County's common pleas court judges will not enter into a political debate over their 2005 budget, said court administrator Robert W. Rupeka.
The commissioners Thursday rescinded a $361,600 budget addition to the court's final 2005 budget. They had given the court the money Aug. 4, but because the money was used to provide pay raises for the court's 30 employees, commissioners took back the money.
Anthony T. Traficanti, chairman of the commissioners, said the commissioners had not been informed of the raises before they gave the courts the extra money, and they could not go along with them, especially since other county employees were told raises would not be forthcoming this year.
The commissioners have stated publicly they want to hold the line of spending during the county's hard economic times, and they have been approving budget adjustments only to make sure departments make it through the year with their current personnel.
Judges' position
Rupeka, who attended the commissioners' meeting, informed the judges of the action.
"The court will not engage in a political debate regarding its budget," Rupeka said. "The court is a separate branch of government and has the constitutional authority to independently manage its operations."
Rupeka said the judges did not set a timetable as to what response, if any, there will be to the commissioners' action.
The court still needs the $361,600 to make it through the year, and the judges have the option of ordering the commissioners to give them the money.
The raises would have been given to Rupeka, magistrates, court mediator, court stenographers, assignment office and jury commission staff, bailiffs and secretaries.
Rupeka said the judges' position is that the 3 percent cost-of-living raises were included in the court's budget in January. That also was explained to the commissioners during the court's budget hearings.
"We've never deviated from the budget plan," Rupeka said.
The commissioners maintain they don't remember raises being part of the budget hearing, but they also said the courts should have given them the courtesy of alerting them or reminding them that raises would be given with the budget addition.

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