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Officials agree: Layoffs loom



Published: Sat, January 15, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Numbers are being reviewed by the county auditor to see if suggested cuts will work.

WARREN -- Break out the pink slips.

It's a virtual certainty that some employees will be laid off in Trumbull County government offices this year as officials aim to make ends meet with available funds.

"We're going to have layoffs, no way around that," said Commissioner Paul E. Heltzel, who with Commissioners Daniel Polivka and James Tsagaris have had two rounds of preliminary budget cuts.

The commissioners held budget hearings with individual departments in December.

The commissioners await a certification from the county budget commission -- auditor, treasurer and prosecutor -- which Heltzel said would be $30.5 million to $32 million, about $6 million to $7 million less than what was spent in 2004.

Under review

After that, the commissioners have to come up with numbers for individual departments. Their second cut on the numbers is being reviewed by the county auditor to see if suggested cuts will work or are allowed.

Adrian Biviano, chief deputy auditor, said Heltzel only recently delivered the numbers to the auditor's office for review and said he couldn't specify which cuts could be made. But he agreed layoffs will happen and the public will be inconvenienced.

"You have to make the adjustments now to balance it out for the whole year," Biviano said.

Heltzel said there could be public hearings with officeholders and department heads on their preliminary budgets for their chance to comment on whether suggested cuts are appropriate.

After that, the budget would be finalized.

It's at that point that debate could resume over adding a second county sales tax, but the county's timing for collecting it this year already is off.

"For us to then act on all of this in a timely fashion, to make any kind of tax collection effective, this [budget] process would have to be completed by about the third week of February," Heltzel explained. "I'm almost certain that no matter what is done, that for the first nine months of this year we would have no new tax dollars."

Process set up by state

That's because it takes about three months from implementation to receive any money on a new sales tax. Sales taxes follow a collection and reimbursement process set up by the state. Enacting one also requires public hearings and a commissioners' vote.

Heltzel has previously stated he'd support an additional quarter-percent tax only if it is to maintain minimal services for 911, the sheriff, recorder, treasurer and courts, among others; his colleagues this year have not taken a public position but in the past have opposed imposing a tax.

"We missed that window in order to put it on April 1," Biviano said. Even a 3-0 emergency vote by the commissioners to start collection in July would not bring in any revenue until October, he explained.

County department heads and elected officials have handed budget requests to county commissioners totaling $40 million. Based on those requests, the county would face a shortfall this year of $8 million to $9 million, officials have said.

In reality and compared to last year's final budget figure of $37.7 million, however, this year's shortfall is about $6 million.

Trumbull County's existing half-percent sales tax is expected to generate $10.5 million this year. In 2003, voters soundly rejected another half-percent sales tax.




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