County’s budget includes salary cuts

Published 1:25 pm Friday, January 16, 2009

It’s official: Lawrence County has a new budget and it does include a 15 percent cut in salaries for all departments except sheriff’s office road deputies.

Given the county’s financial condition, some unionized employees have agreed not to take a raise for the next three years.

And one officeholder said he has a way to pay for some of his necessities by raising some new cash.

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The new budget reflects a projected $665,000 decrease in revenues in 2009 from what the county accumulated in 2008. The commission announced its intention to approve the plan, cuts and all, at its meeting last week. After soliciting input from other officeholders, the budget was adopted Thursday.

With an eye toward that lean budget, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3319 D, that represents maintenance and dog pound workers, have inked a new three-year contract with the county. The workers have agreed to forego raises but will get a $5 per month, per employee contribution to a prepaid legal fund. The workers have also agreed to allow the county to hire part-timers, if necessary, to do the work some full-timers had performed before.

“It’s been a very long process and they have really stepped up,” said attorney Mark McCown, who represented the county in negotiations. Three employees are covered under the contract.

Sheriff Jeff Lawless approached the county about creating an impound lot for cars towed by deputies or confiscated in, say, drug raids.

“The city is set to make about $40,000 last year on vehicle sales (from its impound lot),” Lawless told the commission. He thinks whatever money his own lot would generate might help offset some of the costs of his department. He said the county owns land that could be used for this.

“If you say I should, I will move forward on this,” Lawless said.

“I think that’s fine. It could help us, possibly,” Commissioner Doug Malone said.

Fellow Commissioner Les Boggs asked if maybe Lawless could contact the Ohio State Highway Patrol and ask if they would want to use this lot, too.

“I think this could help us tremendously,” Boggs said.

The commission did agree to purchase four new cruisers for the department, noting that the 16 cruisers in the department’s fleet had a combined total of 3 million miles.

The plan is to supplement the brand new cruisers with the purchase of good used ones from other counties. Lawless said he is not above used cruisers and as the former chief deputy for his department, became quite adept at spotting bargains and even free hand-me-downs.

“I’ve learned over the last eight years to be a pretty good beggar,” he mused. “It’s not beyond me to beg and plead.”