By Peter H. Milliken
A staff pay cut is better than fewer jobs, less service, Judge Theresa Dellick rules.
YOUNGSTOWN — Faced with a growing budget shortfall, Mahoning County’s juvenile court judge has decided a pay cut for all court staff, including herself, is better than laying off more people and further impairing service to the community.
Judge Theresa Dellick has told all 143 court employees that their pay will be cut 5 percent, effective March 1.
Despite the pay cut, she said they’ll still be required to work the same number of hours they have been working. The pay cut will last “until the economy improves,’’ she said.
“The economy continues to worsen. The juvenile court is forced to respond with additional budget cuts,” Judge Dellick wrote.
“These are difficult times, and I realize that the reduction in pay will negatively affect your personal lives. However, a layoff would be more devastating. We can remain thankful that we are employed and can continue to provide the needed services,” the judge added.
“We will more than likely see an increased need for our services and will remain committed to protecting the public and serving the families of our community,” she concluded.
“If I lay off 12 more positions, I’m going to be cutting into the core of the court,” she said in an interview, noting that the already reduced staff has assumed many of the duties of those who were laid off last month.
“When we go into economic distress in a community, services like ours are used even more, and I cannot have this court disabled at a time when we should be here providing services,” she explained. Juvenile delinquency may increase due to rising family stress associated with parental job loss, she added.
After pondering the issue at length, the judge said she decided the pay cut “was the most effective way to decrease the budget without decreasing services.”
In 2007, some of the court’s staff received pay increases based on promotions, or going from part time to full time, or increases in duties.
This week, the judge imposed the 5 percent pay cut after speaking with George J. Tablack, county administrator.
The judge said Tablack told her the juvenile court’s share of the county’s general fund would likely drop below $6 million this year.
Earlier this week, the judge said her projected general fund allocation was $6.3 million. Last year, the court’s allocation from that fund was $6.6 million. The general fund is the county’s main operating fund.
Effective Jan. 17, Judge Dellick laid off 11 of her staff, including the receptionist whose job was abolished, a probation officer, a corrections officer, a parent project facilitator, a mental health counselor, three case managers, a janitor, and a reading facilitator and life skills instructor.
The judge said she also plans to leave three more positions vacant — two corrections officer posts and a case manager position — with the expected resignations of their occupants this year.
The total annual savings from the layoffs, the vacant positions and the pay cut is $842,826, the judge said. The annual savings from the pay cut alone is $235,212. The layoffs saved $488,131 a year.
Last month’s layoffs mean longer waits for counseling appointments, no after-school reading assistance or life skills instruction for youth in detention, and reliance on a fully automated telephone answering system, the judge said.