Office holders address Commission

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How do Lawrence County office holders plan to make ends meet through the end of the year?

They briefed Lawrence County Commissioner Tanner Heaberlin Tuesday on what steps they had already taken to balance their budgets and what they planned to do in the future to stave off layoffs.

Clerk of Courts Les Boggs said he would be able to move funds from other accounts to cover a projected deficit in his payroll.

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According to figures released last month from the Lawrence County Auditor’s Office, the clerk’s office was projected to run out of money for payroll by the Sept. 19 pay period.

“We’ve not had to lay anyone off,” Boggs said.

Lawrence County Common Pleas Court Presiding Judge Charles Cooper said he would move money from his supplies accounts to cover any shortfall in his payroll account. Auditor’s office figures showed the common pleas court would run out of money in its payroll account by mid-December. Cooper said he did not anticipate having to lay anyone off.

Lawrence County Recorder Sharon Gossett-Hager said one of her employees left last year and was not replaced. Another has taken advantage of the county’s early retirement package this year, leaving her staff two people smaller than it used to be.

Gossett-Hager said she has enacted other penny-pinching measures, though she emphasized her office has always been in balance. She said she will only attend two days of an out-of-town conference next week, and no longer print record books — records are now kept via a new computer system. And she brings her own cleaning supplies for the office.

“Some small changes in the office have helped,” she said.

Gossett-Hager is not projected to run out of payroll funds before the end of the year.

Boggs said he had also canceled a summer conference in light of budget issues.

An employee of the auditor’s office said one full-time and one part-time employee have been laid off there in an effort to make ends meet and comply with an earlier mandated 15 percent budget cut.

Lawrence County Municipal Court Judge Donald Capper said since last year, he has reduced his staff by five — two retirements and three lay-offs — saving his office $71,746.61.

But he said he is still facing a shortfall and is trying to figure out how to alleviate it.

“I may have money in my capital improvement fund but I hate to do that,” Capper said. “Those are the funds we use to buy equipment.”

Capper is projected to run out of money in his payroll account in mid-October.

Capper did dip into his capital improvements fund last year to make ends meet at the end of the year and has concerns about doing this on a regular basis.

Sheriff Tim Sexton told Heaberlin he knows he is short on funds “just about everywhere, as always.” One of his chief problems is that the number of people arrested continues to rise, leaving him juggling jail expenses, worries about out-of-county jail costs and a whole host of other concerns.

Sexton said right now, he has 15-20 inmates housed in Scioto County to alleviate overcrowding in his jail and he has few other options to cover payroll and other expenses.

“Supplies are going to go in the hole due to fuel and food costs at the jail. Everything is going up,” Sexton said. “I think we have some money we can use to offset (costs).”

Sexton is projected to run out of money to pay corrections officers by late October and clerks, dispatchers and road deputies by mid-November.

Heaberlin said after the meeting he sympathized with Sexton’s plight.

“We have to do something to help the sheriff’s office,” he said. “We want to feel protected.”

Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Boster said he is this year catching up on utility bills that did not get paid last year because of the county’s budget woes and he may need additional money to make ends meet in that area.

Tuesday’s work session was omnibus. While Heaberlin met with officeholders in the main commission room to discuss finances, Commission President Doug Malone met separately with people concerned about a drainage problem in the eastern end and Commissioner Jason Stephens met with another resident about a problem he had. Heaberlin’s meeting with officeholders lasted approximately an hour.