Money crunch: Some offices to be broke by fall

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Brother, can you spare a few hundred thousand dollars?

A report from the Lawrence County Auditor's Office shows 18 county offices will run out of money before the end of the year and some could run out of funds as early as September.

The report, requested by the Lawrence County Commission last week was conducted by Chief Deputy Auditor Chris Kline. It shows the adult probation agency, domestic violence task force, clerk of courts employees line item, group home salaries line item, courthouse maintenance and operation line item and sheriff's office employees line item could all run short of money by September.

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Additionally, payroll line items for probate court, municipal court jury commission and security salaries could run out of money the following month.

Commissioners warned Thursday that office holders should cut spending now.

"We're not through the first quarter and some of these offices have spent a third of their budget already," Commissioner Doug Malone said. "I don't know where they think the money is going to come from."

Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Richard Walton said he isn't surprised by the budget issue with the adult probation agency.

"They underbudgeted it $20,000 at the start of the year and they undercut it last year also," Walton said. Probation, or the Bureau of Community Controlled Sanctions, is operated by the Common Pleas Courts. "If you're underfunded from the get-go, there isn't much you can do to make things balance."

Walton said the courts and the commission have always worked well together in the past and hopes they can continue to do so in the future.

That sentiment was echoed by Lawrence County Sheriff Tim Sexton, who said

the commission has been good to add money later in the year to ensure the sheriff's office continues to operate.

"There's no reason why we can't receive money from the half-percent sales tax. The wording specifically says the money is to continue funding necessary emergency services in Lawrence County and the sheriff's office is front-line emergency service," Sexton said. "It's been common knowledge for years that we've been understaffed. We're not overspending. We're meeting minimum demands."

Sexton said without an increase in funds, he would almost certainly have to lay off staff.

Patterson warned that officeholders should not expect to find a nest egg anywhere later on - the county doesn't have one.

"The county can't manage their (other) offices once the budget is made," Commission President George Patterson agreed.

"We've seen in other counties where people have had to cut staff and say no to cut the budget. … We've been preaching but we haven't seen any action, or not enough action."