TRUMBULL COUNTY Auditor warns of layoffs' impact

If the county misses a payroll, major problems begin, an official said.
WARREN -- Shutting down Trumbull County's payroll and accounting functions because of layoffs would take county government within a step of fiscal emergency, the county auditor says.
The shutdown would prompt the county's budget commission to call in the state auditor's office to do an analysis of the county's financial position "to declare the county in fiscal emergency," Auditor David Hines warned county commissioners. The budget commission includes the treasurer, auditor and prosecutor.
Hines said Wednesday that his office's salary appropriation has been cut 50 percent since 2002 -- from $583,000 to a proposed $295,000. At the same time his general fund staff has been reduced from 21 to 14.
Hines told the commissioners that a $295,000 budget this year would cause him to lay off at least 10 employees.
The two payroll employees now handle an annual 26,300 payroll checks plus insurance processing for payments. The three accounts payable and pay-ins employees handle 25,000 pay-ins and process 41,000 accounts payable.
"As soon as we miss a payroll, we've got a problem," said Adrian Biviano, chief deputy auditor.
By leaving one employee in both payroll and accounts payable, "We are looking at a complete shutdown of both the payroll and accounting functions," Hines said.
This would mean payroll checks could not be delivered when due, every two weeks; and accounts payable "would quickly become delinquent, causing the county to incur late payment penalties," he added.
Potential legal troubles
Cuts in the auditor's staff also would cause financial trouble for schools and open the county up to potential legal action, when it is not able to advance tax settlements on property and personal property taxes, the auditor explained.
Transfers of property and deeds would be reduced with a backlog and cause the county to lose revenue, he continued. Some 9,800 transfers are handled annually, generating $1.6 million in revenue.
The county expects to have $30.5 million to $32 million in its general fund, about $6 million to $7 million less than what was spent in 2004.
The budget commission will meet at 11 a.m. Monday in Hines' office to certify to commissioners how much money is available, and urge the commissioners to finalize a budget.
All of the county's officeholders have been summoned before commissioners this week to explain how budget cuts will affect their individual departments and the public.
Trumbull County's only half-percent sales tax for general operations is expected to generate $10.5 million this year. In 2003, voters soundly rejected another half-percent sales tax the county had been collecting, creating the present budget crunch.

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