County looking at more job cuts, including public safety and roads
Ryan Summerlin November 27, 2012
At the Summit County Council’s request, County Manager Bob Jasper is providing the council with a recommended budget that does not assume the reinstatement of the two tax increases recently halted by successful petitions.
"We need a budget without the reinstituted taxes because we can’t rely on the tax revenue for the next year," Councilmember John Hanrahan said. "Either the council doesn’t reinstate the tax increases or they reinstate tax increases of some kind, but we won’t be able to rely on the revenue until a Truth in Taxation hearing in July."
To make up for the deficit now facing the county in the Municipal Services Fund and Service Area #6 areas, Jasper plans to recommend to the council on Wednesday, Nov. 28, to freeze three Sheriff’s Office positions, in addition to the two Sheriff’s Office positions recently frozen, two road workers and planner position.
Though he is recommending the revised budget as directed by the County Council, Jasper said he does not agree with a budget that assumes no tax increase reinstatement.
"My core recommendation is to reinstate the tax increases," Jasper said.
Jasper added that the intention behind increasing the taxes was not to expand services, but simply maintain the current levels of service.
"We’ve already cut 21 positions out of 300," Jasper asked. "How many more can we cut and still maintain services? In talking about Service Area #6, I don’t see how you can cut five Sheriff’s Office positions and not affect service levels. We don’t want to punish people, but if we don’t have the money, we can’t provide the services."
Jasper said he is also concerned with how the elimination of two road maintenance positions will impact the county.
There are 18 workers for the entire county, Jasper said.
"How do you change plow routes if you have two people less?" Jasper asked. "We’ll have to do steep areas first, like Summit Park and Pinebrook. Otherwise, people drive on them, packing them down, and it becomes a sheet of ice. That means that for the flat areas, we’ll get to them when we get to them, after we do the steep areas. It might not be until later in the day."
Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said that if three more Sheriff’s Office positions are frozen, it will be seven sworn positions eliminated since 2010, which constitutes more than a patrol platoon.
"That is a huge reduction," Edmunds said. "I’m probably going to have to do without my Special Enforcement Unit, which I’ve already had to dismantle somewhat to move positions to the patrol division, which has been critically short-handed with the additional calls for service we’ve had over the last year."
From 2011 to 2012, calls for service have risen 21 percent, he added.
The Special Enforcement Unit is responsible for most of the proactive traffic enforcement.
"I think it’s reasonable to assume that if we lose the Special Enforcement Unit completely, there will be an impact on traffic collisions, DUI-related traffic fatalities, bicycle versus pedestrian accidents and injuries," Edmunds said. "It’s not something that is recommended, and it is something I am vehemently opposed to. It can potentially impact public safety in a very profound way."
Edmunds said the budget is a manifestation of priorities, and the council needs to decide what their priorities are.
"Laying off five deputy positions in a single year is catastrophic to public safety, and if that is done, it will be a clear message that public safety is not a priority," he said.
Jasper plans to hold a public hearing on Dec. 12 and a Truth in Taxation hearing on Dec. 14 concerning reinstating taxes, pending Wednesday’s council meeting.