The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 20, 2012

Cragon seeks funds for longer hours

Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Longer window hours during real-estate tax collection periods would be offered by Treasurer Dawn Cragon if her 2013 budget proposal is approved by commissioners.

Cragon, who was re-elected to the county treasurer post earlier this month, presented the board with a request of $323,054 for 2013. She is on track to spend $259,276 this year.

Most of the proposed increase would be in salaries and wages, $94,800 compared to $36,909 this year. Cragon said she wants to open more windows during the 30 days leading up to the tax due date, plus have a window open during business hours the rest of the year.

Window hours were curtailed when county revenues fell four years ago.

“We operate efficiently that way, but it’s not the best for the customer,” she said.

Cragon also has an employee with 30 years of service who will retire next year and take with her $16,300 in accumulated sick and vacation time. Her budget request reflects that pay out.

Clerk of Courts Carol Mead and Clerk-Elect Tami Pentek also presented a budget request that asks for additional money for personnel in the legal division, which is paid out of general fund.

The request is for $357,707, compared to $320,093 this year.

Mead is in negotiations for a three-year contract with the local that represents her staff, and she expects pay raises to be part of the bargain. She said employees received a 1 percent pay increase in the last year of the expiring contract.

Mead said she needs to add an administrative assistant to her staff in order to handle the increase in case filings. She said her office typically saw no more than 500 criminal case filings annually in the past, but this year the number has already surpassed 700. Foreclosure filings and other court documents are on the rise, as well.

Along that line, Commissioner Dan Claypool asked Mead what can be done to address the backlog of documents being microfilmed. He said the boxes are cluttering up the hallway and a room in that wing of the courthouse.

“We are creating more (documents) than we are getting rid of,” he said.

Mead said hiring temporary staff or paying overtime for weekend work would help address the problem. Claypool said he would like to see a plan for completing the job and an estimate of cost.

Mead said the office is keeping up with the microfilming of current documents, but it’s the older documents that are languishing. Further, some glitches with the software system is making it difficult for the courts that use the information to view the digitized documents.

Auditor Roger Corlett is also seeking an increase in salary money for his staff. Corlett included a 2 percent pay increase in the salary line item, which is about $3,500 more than last year’s.

Overall, Corlett is seeking $322,025 to run a portion of his office from the general fund. He said that budget is still lower than any auditor’s office budget from the period 1995 from 2008. During one three-year period, the budget averaged $422,000.

The auditor’s office depends upon other revenue sources, including a portion of the real estate transfer fee, for funding the real estate division.

“It’s a good budget,” Corlett said the general fund request. “But it leaves us not fully funded in weights and measures, copier, office supplies and printers.”