TRUMBULL COUNTY Second round of budget hearings under way
The 911 department will either have to shut down or collect taxes, the director says.
WARREN -- Trumbull County commissioners are being told by officeholders and department heads that there's not enough money this year to provide services the public has come to expect.
One department head, Trumbull County 911 director Tim Gladis, gave commissioners two options: shut down the program or put a half-percent sales tax on the ballot for criminal justice, including 911 and the sheriff.
"It gives people the opportunity to make a decision. Do you want 911 services? Are you willing to pay for them?" Gladis said. "I think we have to talk about the elephant that's sitting in the living room."
All county elected officials and department heads are having a second round of budget hearings this week with the commissioners, and some of them have seen their budgets cut by more than 40 percent.
Although Gladis' operation isn't mandated by law, he says it saves time and lives in emergencies. "I'd like you to ask any one of the safety forces in this audience if they think it's melodramatic [to say] that it could result in death" if call answering is delayed by staff cuts, he said.
This year's budget would mean laying off 19 of his 30 employees -- eight were already lost last year -- and leave just two dispatchers on duty per shift.
They would be able to take only the most critical calls, Gladis said. "We'd probably be the first agency in the country to do that, and I certainly hope we don't get that far," he said of shutting down.
On the horizon is the layoff, mostly by seniority, of more than 150 of the county's 400 general fund employees, and a cost to the county of more than $1 million for paying their unemployment.
Trumbull County expects to run on $32 million or $32.5 million this year. That's about $6 million to $7 million less than what was spent in 2004.
Commissioner Daniel Polivka told Recorder Diana Marchese, who had asked for a timetable, that she'd better start planning for layoffs now.
Marchese has cautioned that failure to record mortgages would impair financial transactions. The recorder's office collects $1.5 million a year for the county, and cutting her staff of nine would cause the county to lose even more revenue, she warned.
Also bringing in money for Trumbull County is the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, director Linda Beil said. But her office's $15,000 allocation instead of the $33,000 requested will leave the agency $9,597 short for receiving matching grants.
She pointed out that the EMA brought in $8.5 million after 2003 floods, $766,094 after last year's floods, and $2.2 million over past years for equipment grants.
The commissioners have assembled a citizens review committee to participate in these budget meetings, and then to make nonbiased and nonpolitical recommendations.
Up for hearings today are the sheriff and county auditor, among others. The hearings continue through Thursday.
Sheriff Thomas Altiere has already said patrols in northern townships will end, with deputies responding from the jail downtown only to the most serious, violent crimes or crimes in progress.
Auditor David Hines, meanwhile, is concerned that transfer of properties from one owner to another would be delayed, as would be distribution of local tax dollars to schools and governments.
Treasurer Christ Michelakis, too, is worried that processing of mail and tax bills, plus making daily bank deposits, will be a problem and affect school finances.
Some of the mandated areas likely to be spared cuts are the courts, prosecutor and board of elections.