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The Suburbanite
  • Commissioners start budget hearings

  • The belt tightening that has squeezed county government offices, forced employee layoffs and reduced basic services during the past four years is expected to ease in 2013.

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  • The belt tightening that has squeezed county government offices, forced employee layoffs and reduced basic services during the past four years is expected to ease in 2013.
    This year, Stark County commissioners will have at least $54 million — or 11 percent more than in 2012 — to allocate to the more than 20 county offices and agencies that rely on the taxpayer-supported general fund or the sales-tax-supported criminal justice fund. Budget officials expect this year’s revenue figure to increase by several million more dollars when the county auditor determines how much money was left unspent last year.
    Commissioners Thomas Bernabei, Janet Weir Creighton and Richard Regula will meet with county officeholders over the next two weeks to discuss their financial and staffing needs for 2013.
    BUDGET IMPACTS
    The bulk of this year’s revenue increase is attributed to the estimated $22.5 million generated by the 0.5 percent sales tax that voters approved in November 2011 to restore county criminal justice services. Commissioners have already pledged to allocate most of that money toward the Stark County Sheriff’s Office, so they can fulfill their promise to taxpayers that they would restore the sheriff’s budget and staffing so the county jail can be fully reopened.
    Commissioners have asked the leaders of the other county departments to submit a 2013 budget request that reflects the amount of money the office received in 2011, plus a 2 percent pay raise for employees.
    Most of the more than 500 employees paid from the general and criminal justice funds have not received a raise since 2008 and are contributing more money toward their health insurance costs.
    Commissioners also advised each department to account for an extra paycheck due to 27 pay periods in 2013 and for potential payouts owed to employees who retired in December due to the recent changes in pension laws.
    Beyond the operating budgets, commissioners have asked officeholders to submit what they believe will be their equipment and maintenance needs through 2018. The board wants to create a priority of list of large infrastructure and repair projects.
    Commissioners hope to present a draft of their allocation decisions to officeholders by the end of February.
    The board must approve a budget by March 31, which is when the temporary allocations the board approved in November will run out.
    2013 budget requests
    Stark County commissioners will meet with county officeholders over the next two weeks to discuss their financial and staffing needs and then decide how to best allocate the more than $51 million that is expected to be generated for the county’s taxpayer-supported general fund and sales-tax-supported criminal justice fund.
    Here’s some of the requests commissioners have heard so far:
    Stark County Prosecutor’s Office
    Primary duties: Prosecutes youths and adults who break the law in Stark County and provides legal advice and representation to county public officials and governmental bodies in Stark County.
    Page 2 of 2 - Spent in 2012: $2,598,196
    2013 request: $3,632,140
    Plans for 2013:  Fill the office’s 14 vacant positions and provide a 3 percent raise for employees.
    Stark County Auditor
    Primary duties:  Sets property values, tracks county spending, oversees county payroll, ensures the accuracy of weights and measuring devices and issues dog tags and driver’s licenses.
    Spent in 2012: $888,876
    2013 request: $1,040,859
    Plans for 2013: Provide 2 percent raises for employees.
    Information Technology Department
    Primary duties: Handles the technology needs and logistical support for more than 750 users on the county’s computer network.
    Spent in 2012: $1,550,834
    2013 request: $1,761,299
    Plans for 2013: Hire three employees, provide a 2 percent raise to employees; provide network and software upgrades and install a timekeeping system at the Stark County Sheriff’s Office, county courts and other countywide agencies.
    Stark County Treasurer’s Office
    Primary duties: Collect and distribute county real estate taxes and invest county funds.
    Spent in 2012: $556,785
    2013 request: $770,422
    Plans for 2013: Add a full-time deputy treasurer that would oversee delinquent tax collections and help with overall office duties, hire two part-time employees and a paid intern; provide a 2 percent raise for employees and update 22 office computers.
    Stark County Public Defender’s Office
    Primary duties: Provides legal representation to indigent adults and juveniles charged with a crime.
    Spent in 2012: $1,462,436
    2013 request: $1,543,038
    Plans for 2013: Provide 2 percent raises for nearly all employees, who received a raise since 2007.