JEFFERSON — The Ashtabula County Board of Commissioners hosted their first day of hearings for the proposed 2022 budget on Thursday.

Six county departments presented requests for the 2022 budget to commissioners.

One issue brought up by commissioners was the amount of employees participating in the county’s wellness program, which reduces the healthcare costs for employees and the county.

Additional budget sessions are scheduled for Tuesday.

Veterans Service Commission

Benjamin Schwartfinger, director of the Ashtabula County Veterans Service Commission, ran through the commission’s budget request.

The Veterans Service Commission is legally entitled to half of a mill of funding, and their request totaled $959,978.

Over the last several years, the commission has returned between $284,000 and $424,000.

One significant request made by the commission was the creation of a carry-over line item.

Schwartfinger said the commission is hoping to find a new office. The commission has reached the limit of its current space and would like a location where they could host events.

“We want to be able to grow our services, increase our staffing, have space to do things,” Schwartfinger said.

Juvenile and Probate Court

Juvenile Court Administrator Andrew Misiak said the court is battling a lot of staff turnover. In order to combat the turnover, the court is asking for a $1 per hour pay increase for the court’s clerks, from $13 per hour.

“It’s a high school level employee, so they start out at $13 an hour,” Misiak said. “We’re really battling with McDonald’s at this point.”

Judge Albert Camplese said clerk jobs are highly specialized.

“If you lose one employee, you’ve got a significant hit in terms of your ability to move cases,” he said.

The Juvenile Court, Juvenile Resource Center and Probate Court request for funds totaled $1.5 million. 

Camplese also mentioned an issue where decisions from the court’s magistrates are appealed in order to preserve grounds for appeal.

Camplese said the court is constantly looking at data and reassessing its processes.

Clerk of Courts

Clerk of Courts April Mariotti’s budget request was similar to the request for 2021, but potential pay raises for her office employees were not yet included, she said. Mariotti said negotiations are scheduled for December with the union that represents her employees.

A number of mistakes in the previous budget requests were corrected, she said.

The Clerk of Courts office requested a total of $1.3 million, over three categories. 

Mariotti said she will likely be seeking to have a deputy clerk III position. Some deputy clerk II employees are already making as much as they would as deputy clerk IIIs due to longevity, and are doing the job of a deputy clerk III, Mariotti said.

Court of

Common Pleas

Court Administrator Kathleen Thompson said the highlights of the court’s request is a three-percent raise for most employees, and a three-month overlap for a pair of positions where current employees are leaving and new employees will need to be trained.

Thompson said there has been an increase in interest in the wellness program. The court’s budget request included a significant healthcare increase. Thompson said the courts always project high healthcare costs and hope the costs come in lower, Thompson said.

In total, the Common Pleas Courts are requesting $1.96 million.

Sheriff’s Office

Sheriff William Niemi presented his requests for next year.

The Sheriff’s Office is the largest portion of the county’s general fund budget, County Administrator Janet Discher said.

The Sheriff’s Office request totaled $7.87 million. The request includes funds for the Sheriff’s Office, the Ashtabula County Jail and county dispatch, according to budget documents.

Niemi previously requested four new road deputies, costing $445,600. He also requested nine new vehicles, four sedans, four SUVs and one transport van. Discher said the nine vehicles would cost a total of $383,159. Those two items were not included in his budget request. The price of vehicles has gone up substantially since last year, Niemi said.

Commissioner Casey Kozlowski suggested considering trading in some of the vehicles Niemi is seeking to replace, because trade-in values are so high.

Niemi said his office has done a good job of working within its budget, given the difficulties they’ve had this year.

The Sheriff’s Office is currently in union negotiations, so wage increases were not included in the budget request.

Western County Court

Western County Court Clerk Michele Mihalick said the court’s request is similar to last year’s request. For 2022, the Western County Court requested $375,260, according to budget documents.

The request includes funding a new fourth clerk, she said. Funding for that clerk was included in this year’s budget, but the position wasn’t filled, Kozlowski said.

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