The sheriff's budget is being cut 44 percent, the sheriff said.
WARREN -- Laying off 27 employees effective Feb. 19 will stave off even deeper cuts later this year, but put northern Trumbull County communities at risk right away, Sheriff Thomas Altiere said.
The sheriff has handed out layoff notices, making layoffs by seniority that affect all divisions -- patrol, jail and civil.
Altiere had received a letter from Trumbull County commissioners and a draft of his 2005 budget for review. It revealed the department would receive $3,637,297 for the jail instead of the $6,361,745 he had requested; and $1,742,171 instead of $3,104,845 that had been sought for the uniform division.
"We were surprised they cut us 44 percent across the board, which is devastating to us," the sheriff said.
Altiere and Ernest Cook, chief of operations, said Thursday the layoffs are for 22 jail correctional officers, two deputies, a cook and two secretaries. There will be 90 sheriff's employees remaining at work after the layoffs.
The jail's correctional officers, however, will be replaced by higher-wage deputies with greater seniority -- and this will cut road patrol deputies from five per shift to three. Also, these road patrols now likely will be dispatched from the jail in Warren, rather than being out and about in the communities.
The department expects an increase in burglaries and vandalism up north, much like in 2003 when the last round of layoffs occurred. The 32 vacancies created in that year have never been filled, the officials noted.
The county's northern tier is a rectangle from Mesopotamia to Kinsman, Southington to the Pennsylvania line.
"The people up north, it's going to impact very seriously because there's not going to be any road patrol up there. They've been through it before," Altiere said.
A system will have to be devised, in conjunction with Trumbull County 911, for responding to priority calls -- violent crimes or crimes in progress, Cook said. Also, people might have to file their own police reports online or by telephone.
"It feels like you're rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," Cook said. "There's just so much you can do, there's just so much you can cut."
By rearranging the deputies to staff the jail the county will continue to honor its commitment to house prisoners from Warren, and hopes to continue accepting federal prisoners who generate $1.5 million in revenue annually -- paying for 40 employees.
All county officeholders have been summoned before the commissioners the week of Jan. 30 to explain how budget cuts will affect their individual departments and the public. Altiere decided not to wait.
"We will have a very devastating impact statement" for the commissioners to hear, Altiere said.
Asked if the sheriff's administration would lobby the commissioners for an additional sales tax to maintain operations, both Altiere and Cook paused and didn't make a commitment. They did say, however, that options that could be studied are a criminal justice levy or a sales tax solely for criminal justice.
"Something's got to happen," Altiere said, noting people have come to expect services they will no longer have.
The department laid off now because prolonging the wait would lead to cuts twice as deep later in the year, the officials explained.
The sheriff's department likely won't be alone in laying off employees this year. 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.
Layoffs are inevitable, officials in the commissioners' and auditors' offices said last week.
County department heads and elected officials late last year turned in budget requests to county commissioners totaling $40 million. They are again being asked by commissioners to demonstrate ways their departments could generate additional revenue for the county.
Trumbull County's half-percent sales tax 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.