By jeanne starmack
Mahoning County commissioners adopted a balanced general-fund budget that increases funding for most county departments, though several increases are less than what department administrators requested.
The 2013 budget of nearly $50.3 million was about $12.3 million less than overall requests but $634,000 more than the 2012 budget. Commissioners could not appropriate more because they had to abide by the county budget commission’s revenue certification, Audrey Tillis, county budget director, said Thursday.
The biggest spender in the general fund, the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, requested nearly $5.5 million over this year’s original appropriation of approximately $17.2 million. The office’s increase for 2013 is $175,304 in an appropriation of about $17.4 million.
Other departments that got less than requested include the prosecutor’s office, the clerk of courts, the common pleas courts, the juvenile court and the coroner’s office.
The sheriff’s office would like to open fully its main jail, which could house 658 prisoners but now houses 458. It also would like to reopen its 96-bed minimum-security jail.
That’s a goal the commissioners are committed to as well, Commissioner Anthony T. Traficanti said.
Retiring Sheriff Randall Wellington previously told commissioners that if he received his requested budget, he could hire 57 more deputies to staff the jails adequately.
Wellington and Sheriff-elect Jerry Greene said the appropriation means “status quo” for jail operations, though Greene said he will propose plans to raise revenue after he takes office.
Greene said he believes housing 25 to 30 federal inmates will raise between $800,000 and $900,000. He said charging banks fees for foreclosures would raise $300,000 to $400,000. He also said he would reassign staff.
He said he believes the county can fully reopen the jails. “I’m confident this is an obtainable goal,” he said.
The prosecutor’s office had requested about $1.1 million more than its original 2012 appropriation of nearly $2.9 million. It’s actual increase for 2013 is $239,976 in an appropriation of about $3.1 million.
Prosecutor Paul J. Gains said he was not prepared to comment on the appropriation until he has a chance to review it.
Judge Theresa Dellick of the county juvenile court also said she would not comment on the court’s appropriation until she had time to review it. The court had asked for $464,454 over its appropriation of $5.4 million in 2012. It was appropriated $30,687 more for 2013.
Administrators in the clerk of courts, common pleas courts and coroner’s offices were unavailable for comment on their appropriations Thursday.
The clerk of courts had asked for $255,132 more than its 2012 appropriation of $1.5 million. It received only $32,000 more.
The common pleas court judges and general judicial budget administrator requested $261,924 more in 2013 but received $11,924 in an appropriation of approximately $4.3 million.
The coroner’s office asked for $239,533 more than its 2012 appropriation of $700,000 but received $9,119.
Some county departments saw their budgets decrease from this year. The domestic relations court budget decreased by more than $21,000. Judge Beth Smith said her court administrator retired and was not replaced; those duties were absorbed by other staff. The court’s 2013 budget is $878,726.
Tillis and the commissioners said they appreciated the cooperation they got when they worked on the new appropriations.
“Traficanti said the budget is “fluid” and can be revisited. Tillis noted that a general fund carry-over from this year could boost some department budgets.
“The carry-over doesn’t happen until the close-out of 2012, and will be certified for use in 2013,” she added.