JEFFERSON — The Ashtabula County Board of Commissioners hosted the second day of hearings on the 2022 budget on Tuesday.
Six departments were scheduled to present their proposed budgets in the afternoon.
The commissioners continued to request county employees participate in the wellness program, which reduces insurance costs.
Emergency Management Agency
EMA Director Mike Fitchet said his agency’s budget request for 2022 is slightly higher than last year due to anticipated employee raises, healthcare costs and rising technology costs.
The cost of EMA’s computer aided dispatch system is expected to increase, as a provider moves to a subscription model, Fitchet said.
“Everything we do in 911 today is technology,” Fitchet said.
Another cause of the slight increase in the agency’s funding request is a drill that will be conducted next year related to the Perry Nuclear Power Plant.
“That takes up quite a bit of our time, and obviously funding because there’s overtime involved,” Fitchet said.
The EMA is not funded out of the county’s general fund, Fitchet said. The agency’s budget for 2022 totals $1,173,291, he said.
County Recorder Barbra Schaab said the year of the COVID-19 pandemic was a perfect storm.
Two senior employees retired in just over a year, she said.
Schaab requested $369,709 from the general fund. That is just over $20,000 less than the office’s 2021 budget, according to budget documents provided by the county.
Employees at the recorder’s office need to be highly trained, Schaab said. She said she wants to pay her employees what they are worth.
Schaab requested funds for a new employee in 2022, due to an increase in work load.
“To me, the accuracy of our office is king,” Schaab said. “Because what we do today isn’t for tomorrow, it’s for 30 years from now. You can’t make mistakes that no one knows about down the road and they can’t figure out.”
Commissioner Casey Kozlowski said the public defenders office is different this year, as it transitions to a county office.
Megan Brunarski, with the public defenders office, presented the office’s request to the commissioners, which included hiring an additional public defender, which would bring the office up to full staff.
Earlier on Tuesday, commissioners discussed the details of the lease for the public defenders office.
County Administrator Janet Discher said the state currently reimburses the county for all of the office’s expenses.
The budget request for this year totaled $641,538, which does not include rent and utilities.
Services and Planning
Director Jake Brand presented the department’s request to commissioners.
The request includes $100,000 for an update of subdivision regulations, under contract services, Brand said.
“We participated in comprehensive land use planning, which was budgeted for last year,” Brand said. “That was completed this year. One of the top 10 recommendations was to update our Ashtabula County subdivision regulations.”
The plan is to use a consultant for the regulation update, which was last updated in 2007, Brand said.
Brand is requesting $20,000 a year be set aside to help pay for future costs of replacing equipment used for the county’s recycling program.
Brand proposed changing an administrative secretary position into a fiscal analyst position to help handle grant financial information. The community services and planning office handles a large number of grants.
Discher said only part of the community services and planning department’s funding comes from the county’s general fund.
Judge Nick Iarocci presented the court’s budget request, which included a proposed two percent wage increase.
One significant difference between this year’s request and last year’s is the large increase in the city’s health insurance costs.
Iarocci said the city was currently projecting a 35 percent increase in health insurance premiums.
The court’s request totaled $109,529.
“This is the largest increase I have ever seen since I’ve been here, I’ve been here 26 years,” Conneaut Finance Director John Williams said. The city was seeking prices from a number of different providers, he said.
Ohio State University
Jenna Hoyt presented the OSU Extension’s request to commissioners.
Hoyt said the state is hiring a new educator position at no cost to the county.
The county’s responsibility increased by about $750 for two positions with the extension, Hoyt said.
The county pays a portion of the cost of some of the extension’s employees, Hoyt said.
Hoyt presented two numbers. The first, $189,866 would keep things roughly the same as last year, she said. The second, $194,866, would pay for a number of technology upgrades to the OSU Extension office.