Judges’ 2010 budget requests come with claims they can’t cut any more

By Peter H. Milliken

YOUNGSTOWN — Mahoning County’s probate judge is asking for less money from the county’s general fund next year than his court got this year.

The county’s juvenile court judge, however, is asking for more money, and both judges say they can cut no more.

Probate Judge Mark Belinky and Judge Theresa Dellick of juvenile court made their budget requests in Monday hearings before the county commissioners.

Because of forthcoming retirements in his court, Judge Belinky requested $842,000 for 2010, compared with the $894,833 he received for this year in the settlement of the lawsuit he brought against the commissioners.

Judge Belinky filed that mandamus lawsuit in the 7th District Court of Appeals to enforce his demand for $915,715 after the commissioners initially allocated $694,833 to his court for this year.

Judge Belinky said his chief magistrate, Richard Burgess, who earns about $71,000 annually, will not be replaced after he retires in March, and he expects others on his 17-member court staff will retire by the end of 2010.

Because of the way the calendar falls, the judge also noted that 2009 has 27 paydays, but 2010 will have the usual 26.

Judge Belinky said he has cut spending by canceling subscriptions to some legal periodicals and by using the in-house pool of court reporters rather than hiring them from outside the building. He also has shifted some costs to other funds, which are derived from court filing fees, he said.

When Anthony T. Traficanti, chairman of the commissioners, asked him if he would consider more cuts if county revenues continue to drop, Judge Belinky replied, “I can never shut the door completely on anything, but we need a base amount to operate.”

Judge Belinky said he would not oppose having probate-court employees pay 10 percent of their health-care premiums if the other county courts do likewise. Probate-court employees now pay about 5 percent of their health-care premiums, as do employees of all other county courts.

Before he took office at the end of 2007, probate-court employees made no contributions toward those premiums, he added.

In persuading the voters to pass in May the county’s half-percent sales tax, which failed this month, Commissioner John A. McNally IV said, “It would be much easier if we could just say county employees pay 10 percent [of their health-care premiums].”

The probate court issues marriage licenses, distributes inheritances and orders guardianships for certain elderly and people with mental disabilities.

The juvenile court, which expects to spend $5.9 million to $6 million from the general fund this year, is seeking $6,092,095 from that fund for next year, said Anthony D’Apolito, juvenile court administrator and magistrate. The budget reflects projected increases in things such as utility, fuel and postage costs, he said.

“We’re much more than just a court,” Judge Dellick told the commissioners, adding that her court is responsible for counseling, probation and the cost of round-the-clock juvenile detention.

Juveniles in detention receive clothing, meals, medical care, schooling and counseling, and participate in physical education and arts and crafts, she said.

Juvenile court laid off 11 employees Jan. 17, and the remaining 143 employees took a 5 percent pay cut March 1, and those cuts remain in effect, D’Apolito added.

When George J. Tablack, county administrator, asked her where she could cut her budget further, Judge Dellick said, “We are down to the bare bones.”

D’Apolito told the commissioners their choice is to invest in juvenile-court rehabilitation services now or invest substantially more money later in the adult-criminal justice system.

Tablack said all the county’s major revenue streams are running below projections. The exception is the income received from housing federal prisoners in the county jail.


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