Recorder's office: Cuts will hurt general fund

The office brought in more than $1 million last year.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County Recorder Ronald Gerberry told county commissioners any major cuts to his office could impact the amount of money his office generates for the general fund.
Gerberry had his budget hearing Friday with commissioners, who are trying to pare $57 million in funding requests submitted by officeholders and department heads to match anticipated income of $34 million to $35 million.
The county suffered a 30-percent drop in revenue for this year with the loss of the half-percent sales tax, which ended Dec. 31 after voters twice failed to renew it last year.
Budget hearings continue next week through Feb. 3. The prosecutor's office and juvenile justice court have hearings Wednesday and Sheriff Randall Wellington has his hearing at 9 a.m. Jan. 31.
The recorder brought in more than $1 million in fees for the county's general fund for the second straight year. The office is charged with recording instruments such as liens, powers of attorney and property deeds.
Gerberry added that he's held the line on staffing. He hasn't hired anyone since 2001, when he took office, and in fact, reduced the staff by two people. His current 10 workers haven't had a pay raise in three years.
A similar-size county, Lorain, has 19 employees, he added.
1999 as benchmark
Commissioners have asked officeholders and department heads to use 1999 as a benchmark for budget analysis. That was the last year the county had about $34 million to appropriate.
The treasurer said he spent $523,946 in 1999 and $489,846 last year. He's asked for $562,793 in 2005, and he's turning over $125,000 to the general fund in recorder's fees.
Under Ohio law, a $4 fee is included in the cost of recording documents at the recorder's office. That money is set aside and by law must be used only for improving technology in the office as well as preserving the county's land records, Gerberry said.
He sent a memorandum of understanding to commissioners last year saying he would continue to provide a portion of his user fees to supplement the general fund because of the county's financial straits.
When commissioners asked what would happen if he had his budget reduced by 30 percent, the recorder said, "We will do whatever it takes within the budget restraints to make it happen," he said.
He added, however, that he would have to limit office hours and jeopardize his statutory requirement to have records on file within 24 hours.
Property transfers would be delayed, backlogs would occur and the reduction of instruments filed would impact the amount of money the office could contribute to the general fund, Gerberry said.
Treasurer John Reardon also had his budget hearing this week. He has asked for $743,009 in 2005. His 2004 budget was $738,654. In 1999, the treasurer's budget was $689,154.

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