November 21, 2014

Elyria
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Commissioners weigh where money needed

County has $1.6M to divide among cash-strapped departments

ELYRIA — A week after half the county’s elected officials asked for nearly $1.5 million in extra funding to get them through the rest of the year, the remaining officials asked for almost $650,000 on Thursday.
That brings the total money the county needs to continue operating to about $2.1 million and leaves the county commissioners with the job of figuring out what they can do to help the struggling departments.
Commissioner Lori Kokoski said she wants to make sure county Sheriff Phil Stammitti has the $146,000 he requested last week to avoid layoffs of deputies assigned to the road patrol.
“Safety is going to be my
No. 1 priority,” she said.
County Budget Director Lisa Hobart said Thursday she estimates the county will carry over about $10.6 million into next year, but about $9 million of that is needed to cover salaries and keep the county operating in January and February until 2008 tax revenues start coming in.
That leaves about $1.6 million for the commissioners to divvy up among the various departments in need.
Commissioner Ted Kalo said the best plan would be to split the extra money evenly among all the departments that need it.
“I’m not going to select who’s important, because I believe all the departments are important,” he said.
Kokoski and Commissioner Betty Blair said it would be better to focus on mandated services rather than trying to please everybody.
“We are creatures of statute and, in my opinion, we must look at mandated services first,” Blair said.
Stammitti made the biggest request last week, saying he needed about $600,000 to keep the county jail operating in addition to the $146,000 he needs for road deputies.
Thursday’s largest budget request came from the county Domestic Relations Court, which asked for about $301,000 to get through the rest of the year. Clerk of Courts Ron Nabakowski said his office needs another $225,600 or he’ll have to close down in October.
“Even with the additional funding, we will only stay where we are now — behind,” Nabakowski said.
Others said they needed less to stay in business. County Coroner Paul Matus asked for an additional $18,000, while county Engineer Ken Carney said he needs about $3,000 to keep the county’s Tax Map Office in business.
Probate Judge Frank Horvath said cost-saving measures he’s instituted mean he can get by on what the county has budgeted for him.
Last week, General Division Court Administrator Tim Lubbe estimated the courts would need about $373,000 to finish out the year.
Dealing with the shortfalls for the judges should also take precedence over other departments, Kokoski said.
“Really, we’ve got to look at the courts first, because if we don’t give it to them, they can order us to,” she said.
The county’s judges have said they would be reluctant to take such a step, although they legally could.
The commissioners passed a 0.25 percentage point sales tax increase earlier this year that, if it survives a voter referendum in November, will bring in an extra $7.4 million annually.
Kalo said the commissioners will examine which of the cuts they made earlier this year after losing about
$3.5 million in state funding they should restore over the next week and could begin doling out money as early as next week.
He said he’s not making any promises to anybody yet.
“We are in survival mode,” he said. “There’s nothing that’s sacred at this point.”
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.