The Summit County Budget Committee's budget recommendations are out, which should prove to set the stage for key increases to the Sheriff's Office and Public Works departments that have seen a lean past few years.
Although total operating funds will only increase by just over $25,000 from 2013, increases to those budgets were made possible by an almost $4.3 million increase in revenue from 2013. The Sheriff's Office will see an increase of around $570,000 while Public Works will have its budget increased by about $180,000, according to Summit County Accountant Matt Leavitt.
The county was able to secure more revenue due to the approved tax increases to Service Area 6 and the Municipal Services Fund, although taxes for the majority of Summit County residents will go down.
"In general, I'm pleased with the [Committee's] recommendation," said Public Works Director Derrick Radke. "In Service Area 6, we'll be able to do more projects than in the past."
Radke said some major projects the county will be able to go forward with next year include road maintenance on Parkview Drive, Old Ranch Road, Echo Road in Coalville, an intersection project in Silver Creek near Home Depot and additional work in Jeremy Ranch.
The Budget Committee also recommended an additional 14 staff positions countywide, many of which were frozen or lost due to the failed tax increase last year, Leavitt said. Public Works also beefed up its Fire Warden budget by almost $30,000, which was done to increase fire suppression capabilities.
Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds is "very appreciative" of the money restored to his budget.
"The Budget Committee has recognized that the Sheriff's Office perhaps has had more than its fair share of cuts when the recession came to town," Edmunds said. "We're not getting anywhere near all of it restored, but we certainly are in dire need."
Much of the increased funding for the Sheriff's Office will go toward personnel hiring, Edmunds said. Many positions were either frozen or lost outright and he said he is looking forward to getting staffing back to full strength. Much of the money will be used to increase patrol positions, which have taken a hard hit.
The Sheriff's Office's inmate worker program, which was discontinued due to lack of funding, has a good chance of returning, Edmunds said. He added he will be speaking with Summit County Manager Bob Jasper about his office's priorities.
"I feel much better now that we're getting money restored. It was becoming increasingly difficult to do the job that I was elected to do with the diminished resources that we've had to continue with," Edmunds said.
When Leavitt was asked whether this year's budget process was easier with the increased revenue, he said, "It's still a difficult process because the intent was to use those increases for road projects and help restore the Sheriff's [budget]," Leavitt said. "Everywhere else, we were looking at departments, trying to do everything that is expected of them with limited funds."
To view the Budget Committee's recommendations, visit summitcounty.org, where the document can be found on the main page. The County Manager will make his recommendations in early November, with discussions continuing into December and public hearings scheduled for Dec. 11 and 18.
2014 Summit County Budget Recommendations