FOP: Deputy layoffs may not be necessary

A union official suggests that maybe the chief deputy should be laid off before patrol members.
LISBON -- An official of the Columbiana County deputy sheriffs union said the decision to lay off five or six deputies and five dispatchers because of a sales tax crisis is a premature "knee-jerk reaction."
"The commissioners are forcing the sheriff into this before they have a grasp on what the revenue picture really is," said Mark Drum of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police.
Commissioners cut the staff payroll accounts of all county agencies by 20 percent for 2005, reacting to the expiration of a 1 percent sales tax and a 0.5 percent sales tax this year and uncertain prospects of renewal.
However, Drum said those revenues continue to come in, and Columbiana should do what other counties including Mahoning did to avoid layoffs: pass a three-month allocation to fully fund the department while they get a better handle on what tax revenue will ultimately be.
At the time of the cuts, Commissioner William Hoppel said commissioners anticipated a $1 million falloff in sales tax revenues, in part due to the expiration of the 0.5 percent tax in August, and from a general decline in tax receipts. Even if voters renew the tax in November, some revenue will be lost.
Five or six deputies, most of them from the 13-man road patrol division, and five part-time radio dispatchers will be let go before February, Sheriff Dave Smith announced Tuesday. The cuts represent about 25 percent of the department.
Drum said Chief Deputy Pete Whittemore should be considered for layoff to preserve a patrol job. He also said Smith flouted two arbiter's rulings when he said he would answer some police calls to provide backup for his deputies.
"He can't do bargaining unit work," Drum said. "They gave that up in collective bargaining."
Drum said he will meet with the sheriff's labor negotiators before meeting with his members Monday.
"I have a concern whether we really need layoffs," Drum said.

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