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Budget crunch time
March 24, 2009 - Joe Gorman
With next Wednesday the deadline for permanent budgets for the year to be set, it will be interesting to see how Mahoning County Commissioners and Youngstown City Council get to their spending plans and get through projected deficits.
Council has held budget hearings and Mayor Jay Williams has asked city workers to work a 36 hour week, which would result in a 10 percent cut in pay, in an effort to stave off layoffs.
Most city employees I have run into on my rounds are dead set against that proposal, but none of them offer an alternative.
Up the street at the corner of Market and Champion at the courthouse, there have been no budget hearings, although sheriff's deputies in the Blue Unit have agreed to concessions and the sheriff, juvenile court judge and Commissioner Chairman Anthony Traficanti have all taken 10 percent pay cuts.
There have been layoffs in the JJC and the county engineers department. In a departure from years past, however, commissioners have held no budget hearings this year.
Will the city's workers agree to Williams' request, or will he have to lay off workers? Several insiders say he would never lay off any cops, but don't be too sure. There is no great love for the mayor in the police department, so if he has to make the decision there, he might not lose much sleep over it.
That being said, the city's chronic crime problem has actually improved a little bit in the last year, so he may not want to take the chance of letting guys go and then watch the crime rate skyrocket.
So far commissioners have been spared from having to make any cuts, because the individual departments have been doing it for them. But will that trend continue? Already Probate Judge Mark Belinky is threatening to take them to court if they don't approve his budget he will take the commissioners to court.
Expect the commissioners to lose if that makes it to a courtroom. Judges are loathe to rule against their brethern, no matter how insane their requests might be. If someone can name a case where a judge suing over his budget has lost, email me and let me know.
The only thing I know for sure is that there will be some sort of pain when April 1 comes around, and I know who will be feeling it:
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