Stark County board continues to struggle with budget issues

Sheriff cuts $118,900 from his proposed budget

By John A. Ballentine
[email protected]

The Stark County board held a finance committee meeting on Tuesday, October 10, in the morning and later met that evening for the regularly scheduled monthly meeting. At both venues, the current 2016-17 and the new 2017-18 budgets were discussed with no resolution to either of the budgets’ problems forthcoming.

Auditor for Stark County, Ron Hilton, gave the board a dismal forecast for the 2017-18 year. “Your revenues are flat from last year, your expenses are going up $130,000 to $140,000 so right now you are sitting at a budget loss,” Hilton explained.

Suggestions were made, but no action has been taken to deal with a $125,000 budget deficit this year. One suggestion was to increase the public safety tax, but that would not be enough to balance the budget this year. Besides, the tax increase would have to be placed on the March, 2018 ballot for approval by the voters.

Should it pass, collection of the tax may not possibly result in any gain until next October. Also, the public safety tax is designated to be applied against the Stark County Sheriff’s Office expenditures.

Another suggestion was to issue tax warrants or increase taxes, yet no one on the board was ready to approach that subject in detailed discussion. Hilton added, “You are at the maximum tax rate now.”

Hilton also stated, “Half of your expenditures are from the Sheriff’s Office.” Later, Sheriff Steven Sloan remarked, “I will re-do my budget again.” Sloan announced earlier in the finance meeting during his report that no overtime will occur unless it is approved by himself or by Chief Deputy Chuck Demetreon.

Overtime this year has sky-rocketed for Sloan’s office due to an increase in fatal or emergency situations in Stark County. Other expenses have also increased because of varying gasoline prices and for inflation.

The board went through this year’s budget funds and shifted some line items to other areas within the nine departments of the county. One fund of the Sheriff’s Office was animal control, which has $3,650 in its balance. The board approved transferring $3,000 of that amount to help pay for other sheriff’s funds that are running a deficit.

After three hours, the board agreed to three more meetings in the coming weeks to continue budget talks. Finance committee meetings were scheduled for October 16 and 18, both at 5 p.m. A special county board meeting is scheduled Tuesday, October 24 at 6 p.m. to finalize the 2017-18 budget.

At the Monday evening October 16 county board finance committee meeting, Stark County Sheriff Steven Sloan reconfigured his proposed budget for fiscal year 2017-18. Sloan informed the board that he has reduced his budget by $118,900 but that he will be “letting go a fulltime and a part-time dispatcher.”

Besides laying off the two dispatchers, Sloan reduced line items from amounts he initially proposed. For example, the coroner’s budget was slashed from $29,200 to $25,500.

Sloan stated, “I don’t like that (laying off the dispatchers) because I don’t want anybody to get hurt.” The dispatchers still employed will now work 10 hour shifts. The shifts will be four days a week with a two hour overlap on each of the three shifts.

This $118,900 reduction helps answer the $125,000 deficit balance. The Sheriff reduced the total deficit amount to approximately $6,000. County Recorder Linda Pyell stated in her previous committee meeting report that she could reduce her proposed budget by $2,000.

A deficit of $4,000 is left to answer. The board must find more reductions in order to balance the new fiscal year’s budget. The fiscal 2016-17 budget will therefore end with a $125,000 deficit. The new budget does not have a contingency plan should there be expenditures that are unforeseen.

If approved on October 24, the new budget must be available the following 15 days for inspection. Final approval and acceptance could occur on November 14 at that month’s regularly scheduled board meeting.
In other county business, County Engineer Mark Otten for the highway department, reported that the Holmes Road reconstruction is completed. The Osceola Township bridge replacement continues to progress with completion of the pilings and abutments, plus the deck beams are set. The North Valley Road bridge requires replacement at an estimated cost of $1.9 million. Otten stated, “The grant application for this project has been submitted.” He also explained, “It’s not load limited now. We should get four to five years use from it [before the replacement].”

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