Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains said there will be layoffs in his department if he is not funded the $3.8 million budget he has requested for 2013.
The funding request is a $672,000 increase over the amount spent by the department this year.
The prosecutor’s office in 2012 was budgeted $3,019,523, but ultimately spent $3,170,720 to operate the office.
Gains and several staff members sat down Wednesday with Commissioners Carol Rimedio-Righetti, Anthony Traficanti and Commissioner-elect David Ditzler, with a proposal requesting $3,842,977 for 2013.
“If I don’t get my budget, I am going to have to lay off lawyers, and that will mean justice delayed. Justice delayed is justice denied,” Gains said. “If I don’t get funded at least what I am asking, we are looking at layoffs.”
Gains said the 2013 request seems higher than it actually is because he has been supplementing the prosecutor’s office operating budget over the last three years with money from the Law/Drug Enforcement Trust Fund.
The fund consists of money given to the prosecutor’s office from seizures in drug raids and other things collected by police departments in the county.
Gains said he has funneled more than $524,000 from the LDET Fund to operating expenses in his office over the last three years, but he can no longer draw from that money because the fund is now down to $25,000.
Gains said next year’s funding request also includes a few items that are out of his control, such as a mandate for new computers and adjustments to the way his office pays into the Public Employees Retirement System.
The computers, Gains said, could have been purchased from the LDET Fund, but because the fund has been used to supplement his office in the last several years, the general fund will need to pick up the $36,000 cost of those computers.
Gains also said the county has picked up the total PERS contribution for employees over the past several years as an incentive to not give pay raises. County officials, he said, now want to have employees contribute to the system and adjust their pay for the amount they will be paying. He said that change will cause a $100,848 increase to his budget.
There also is the matter of administrative staff reclassifications and step adjustments along with the need to hire two prosecutors, an investigator and two secretaries totaling about $474,000.
Gains reminded commissioners he has been frugal in office spending, only purchasing one new vehicle in the last 16 years and not spending money on furniture, carpeting or any other office upgrades. He also said attorneys in the office spend a great deal of time handling heavy caseloads.
Gains, in 2011, started a firestorm after giving $220,000 in pay raises to his assistant prosecutors at the start of that year. He said the raises were needed to prevent prosecutors in his office from leaving for higher-paying jobs elsewhere. Commissioners defunded the department by $100,000 after the announcement of the pay raises that year.
“The fact is, we are not wasting money,” Gains said. “I am not in here asking for some pie-in-the-sky dream. I am not asking for new equipment. I am not asking for new chairs or any frills. I am asking you to fund this office.”
Commissioners indicated creative plans would be needed to meet the needs of the department and remain within a reasonable budget.
“We know you guys work hard, and in a perfect world everyone could have what they want. But we have this one asking for this and that one asking for that, and you are talking about a $672,000 increase here,” Rimedio-Righetti said. “We are going to have to get with Audrey [Tillis] and see what can be done.”
Tillis, county budget director, said the collective departments have made 2013 funding request totaling about a net $8 million more than the county certification for next year.