Officials face tough decisions on budget

Published: Sun, December 11, 2011 @ 12:05 a.m.


By Peter H. Milliken


Mahoning County commissioners have been bombarded with $7,324,562 worth of wage increases, additional staffing and additional operating and capital expense requests from county departments as the commissioners prepare to enact a 2012 budget this week.

The biggest extra requests are coming from the sheriff’s office and facilities maintenance department, according to a “general fund decision items” summary prepared last week by the county’s Office of Management and Budget.

“We did encourage the departments to ask for what they needed. ... They understand they’re probably not going to get a lot of these things, but they asked for what they wanted to run their departments efficiently and effectively,” said Barbara J. Sours, budget director.

With general-fund budget requests from county departments totaling some $63.3 million for next year, and with a budget target of $47.9 million, the commissioners face difficult choices.

Sheriff Randall A. Wellington is seeking an extra $230,377 to give a 3 percent pay increase to all of his staff, if such raises emerge from labor negotiations.

He’s also seeking $76,029 to cover pay increases associated with seven promotions in the gold unit of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 141, which represents ranking officers.

The sheriff’s additional requests also include $2,226,844 to return all 37 laid-off deputies to work; $1,611,355 to add 32 employees to fully staff the main jail and reopen and staff the minimum-security jail for overnight use; $473,572 to pay for the return of eight deputies from leaves of absence; $436,152 for state-minimum training expenses; and $150,000 for five vehicles.

The capital budget requests are the sheriff’s request for a $460,000 self-contained indoor firing range for weapons qualification and the coroner’s request for a $150,000 X-ray machine.

Sgt. Thomas DeGenova, fiscal officer in the sheriff’s department, said he is researching the possibility of obtaining a federal homeland security grant for the firing range.

The facilities department is calling for $125,703 to fund a 3 percent pay increase for all 29 members of its staff.

That department also wants funds for wages and benefits for five additional positions: $113,876 for two custodians; $81,154 for a jail electrician; $80,752 for a boiler mechanic; and $51,765 for an administrative assistant.

County Recorder Noralynn Palermo, who has a staff of six, including herself, seeks $34,996 for pay and benefits for a new, entry-level deputy recorder — her first new hire in 11 years.

Palermo said she needs the new employee because two of her employees have “major medical problems” and are taking significant sick leave and because her long-tenured employees average three weeks of annual vacation time.

The recorder’s office is the repository for landownership records for all of the county’s 166,000 real-estate parcels. As The Vindicator reported last week, Palermo’s office has witnessed an invasion in the past year as title searchers review public records to identify current owners of oil and gas rights.

Other departments’ pay-increase requests are: $20,444 for a 3 percent pay increase for all county auditor’s office staff; $7,250 for a 2.5 percent increase for all court bailiffs; $26,924 for various pay increases for eight juvenile court employees; $33,244 for 3 percent to 10 percent wage increases for veterans’ service commission staff; and $17,213 for 3 percent pay increases for all data processing staff.

Also requested is a combined total of $55,556 to cover increased rents for the area courts in Austintown, Boardman and Canfield.

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