COUNTY FINANCES Officials OK debt plan for $7.34M

Commissioners OK'd agreements for $2.3 million in community-based corrections grants.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County commissioners approved the refinancing of debt payments for $7.34 million in bonds Tuesday morning, a move designed to keep the Mahoning County Jail operating while under a court order to improve jail conditions.
"Ninety-nine percent of this will go to fund the jail," said Anthony T. Traficanti, chair of the commissioners.
Traficanti said the refinancing will provide evidence to a federal court that the county is trying to stay in compliance with the order, which has resulted in the release of inmates to relieve overcrowded conditions.
"It gives us and the federal judge something to work with," he said.
Even though the county passed a half-percent sales tax on the May 3 ballot, the refinancing means that the county is borrowing against anticipated revenue, Traficanti said. He said that the county hopes to pay off the indebtedness by the end of next year.
County auditor George Tablack has estimated that the deficit faced by the sheriff's office alone could reach $6.5 million.
"Other departments will have to hang in there until next year while we dig ourselves out of a hole," Traficanti said. "This isn't a solution -- we're still going to be short until the end of 2006."
Other items
In other business on Tuesday, the commissioners approved three agreements with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections for $2.3 million in grants for the Community Corrections Association.
CCA houses inmates in the last few months of their sentences or those on probation, and provides services such as electronic monitoring of home confinement, community service monitoring and day-reporting.
With the release of inmates from the jail as part of the court order to cap the jail population at 296, CCA is serving a fast-increasing number of offenders, Dr. Richard Billak, director of the association, said.
The grants will fund renewal of the programs, Billak said.
The commissioners also approved non-general fund expenditures of $35,000 for recycling awareness campaigns through local news media and in conjunction with the county's Home Builders Association.
The Home Builders Association campaign will promote the use of recycled materials by builders, said Jim Petuch, director of the Green Team, the county's recycling division.
Petuch said that the county must improve its recycling participation rate from its current 91/2 percent to 25 percent to stay in compliance with state environmental regulations.
He said the organization is especially interested in letting businesses know that the county has started offering free pick-ups of office paper from businesses. This service was previously available only to nonprofit organizations, he said.

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