By Rick Armon
Beacon Journal staff writer
Summit County leaders warned Monday that they would have to slash at least $5.5 million in spending next year if the proposed state budget is approved.
The state proposal includes a deep cut in local government funds and an increase in unfunded mandates, county Finance and Budget Director Brian Nelsen told County Council.
If the county doesn't cut its operating budget, he said, it would blow through its $25 million rainy day fund by 2015 a move that would jeopardize its good credit rating.
Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry, said the county would look at cutting personnel through unpaid furloughs, reductions in wages and benefits, or layoffs.
The county administration is working through contingency plans, he said.
About 80 percent of the operating budget involves personnel costs, so the majority of the cuts would have to involve workers, Dodson said.
The $5.5 million represents 90 to 100 workers, Nelsen said. The county's current general fund budget is $104 million.
All communities are facing the same scenario, Nelsen said.
''Public safety is really going to suffer as a result of this current budget proposal,'' he said. ''I just don't see any way around that.''
He outlined numerous financial impacts on the county in the two-year state budget, including a $5.2 million dip in local government funds by 2013 and a $1.1 million loss in tangible personal property and public utility reimbursements.
The county also would be required to pay millions more in indigent defense costs and other mandates, he said.
The good news is that the county could receive $3 million from casino revenue by 2013 and a proposed 2 percent decrease in the employer contribution toward pensions would save $1 million.
County leaders have scheduled a round-table discussion with state lawmakers at 9 a.m. Thursday at the John S. Knight Center, 77 E. Mill St., to talk about the potential impact on the county.
The county delegation to the legislature has been invited.
So far, state Sens. Frank LaRose, R-Akron, and Tom Sawyer, D-Akron, and Reps. Todd McKenney, R-New Franklin, and Zack Milkovich, D-Akron, have agreed to attend.
Reps. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, and Lynn Slaby, R-Akron, have said they have prior commitments and won't be there, county leaders said.
The discussion will include presentations by county, city and township officials.
John Green, director of the Bliss Institute for Applied Politics at the University of Akron, will moderate.
The goal is to share information about the budget's impact and to work with the delegation, County Council President Jerry Feeman said.