The Scioto County Sheriff’s Office is being forced into a voluntary cutback because of a budget shortage. At the same time, several other county office holders have given their employees raises.
“Friday (Feb. 13) afternoon I served every employee a written notice advising them that effective March first that their work schedules will be reduced by 10 percent due to the lack of funding that we have received in our 2009 operating budget,” Donini said.
That means employees will be given only 72 hours over a two-week period instead of the usual 80 hours.
Donini said the sheriff’s budget had been reduced by 17 percent or $663,000 from last year’s funding level. Donini said $500,000 of that is in salaries alone.
Donini said there are several funds involved in the cuts.
“You’ve got your general fund, but at the sheriff’s office we have special accounts that generated some revenue, and we’ve been entitled to actually keep those accounts within the office away from the general fund,” Donini said. “Over the last 12 years some of them have been accumulating cash balances. Over the past 12 years we have chosen not to spend that funding in ways that were not necessary — therefore we have balances. Now when you take all of those accounts and you add them all up, they come up to about $400,000. We’re getting ready to apply that, not all to the salaries, because a certain funding can’t be spent for salaries, it’s all being shuffled around to where I’m going to be able to reduce that $663,000 to $245,000.”
Donini said the shortage will result in staffing levels being reduced by 10 percent.
A rumor on Tuesday is that the cutback was mandated by the Scioto County Commissioners, but Donini said that is not really the way it happened.
Donini said his department came up short last year and it came to light in July (2008).
“And in July you don’t have time to react to a budget being short,” Donini said. “But we had enough in our cash accounts to prevent this. But when I got my budget in 2009 and I saw how much reduction we got — no one told me to do anything, this is the office that I run, and I made a decision.”
Donini said some other county offices have taken another approach.
“I understand there are other offices that are just going to wait it out until October when their funding runs out, and hopefully the commissioners will have money,” Donini said. “I can’t risk that.”
Donini said what upsets him after he has taken drastic measures to make cutbacks on top of eight vacancies that already exist in his department, is that some offices are doing nothing and will wait for, and may or may not, get a bailout in October.
basically means is that from what we (the sheriff’s office) have saved, we are bailing them out,” Donini said. “The other thing that is frustrating is, and I haven’t confirmed any of it, but it’s my understanding that some office holders have actually given their employees a 4 percent increase this year.”
According to public records, Judge David Spears in the Domestic Relations Court, and Judge Howard H. Harcha III in the Common Pleas Court, gave three percent increases; Common Pleas Judge William T. Marshall gave a four percent increase; and the Scioto County Board of Elections gave a $1 per hour increase. The only other changes came as a result of the sheriff’s office and Scioto County Engineer’s Office being under bargaining agreements with their respective unions. The Scioto County Recorder’s Office did not give an increase in 2009, but gave Christmas bonuses in December of 2008.
Another rumor swirling around the county budget was that the Scioto County Commissioners had given themselves raises for 2009. Commission Chairman Mike Crabtree said that was not true.
“No. As a matter of fact no county commissioner, to my knowledge, got a raise in the state of Ohio,” Crabtree said. “There has been a lot of controversy about that over the past year-and-a-half because the way they had it set up was last year which was the last raise and it was either the current rate of inflation or three percent, whichever was less.”
Donini said it was his opinion that no office in the county should, under the current deficit, be giving raises.
“My employees and the union they are in, we sat down at the table, and this is probably one of the easiest contracts that I have ever negotiated, and I have probably done four, maybe five,” Donini said. “And my employees chose not to take a pay increase. They waived it, knowing the conditions.”
Donini was quick to add negotiations concerning 2010 wages reopen in October.
“I feel they (sheriff’s employees) were responsible enough to make that decision,” Donini said. “Something has got to happen.”
Donini said the only benefit his employees received was a one-year freeze on the increase of the health insurance premiums.
Donini said he wanted to express to the community that he “regrets having to resort to such drastic measures during a time when drugs and violence seem to be so prevalent in our communities and to reemphasize that the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office will continue to strive to provide the most efficient and proactive law enforcement service possible to the residents of Scioto County within our means to do so.”
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232.