LISBON - The number of workers in the Columbiana County Recorder's Officer will be cut by half after Sept. 3, as recorder Craig Brown and county commissioners battle over additional funding that is unlikely to come.
Brown said he advised two of his four full-time employees on Wednesday they will be laid off starting Labor Day, along with a temporary worker, after he received letters from commission president Mike Halleck advising him no additional funding will be forthcoming.
Commissioners were informed last week by the auditor's office that Brown was on pace to run out of money well before the end of the year and that he recently upgraded the employment status of a part-time temporary worker to full-time.
According to the first letter sent by Halleck last week, Brown was on pace to run out of money for salaries by early November. "As previously stated, we do not intend to provide the offices on the courthouse's main floor with any additional funding prior to year end," he wrote.
After receiving no response on how Brown planned to address his budget shortfall, Halleck sent out a second letter on Tuesday questioning the timing of his decision to upgrade the employment status of temporary part-time employee Beth Beverly.
"The board of commissioners requests you be a good steward of your operations as recorder," he concluded.
The 2012 budget adopted by commissioners cut funding for almost every county office, including recorder, which was appropriated $251,000 for general operations - $14,000 less than Brown spent in 2011. Brown also has an equipment fund, which is funded with a portion of recording fees and generates about $50,000 annually in recent years.
Recorders, including Brown, have used excess equipment fund revenue to subsidize general operations to varying degrees. Brown said he is unable to do that as much any more because the equipment fund barely generates enough money to cover his contractual obligations and related expenses.
Brown estimates he needs another $40,000 to get through the year without laying anyone off, and he does not know if furloughing three workers would suffice. He finds it interesting commissioners are prepared to let him lay off employees at a time when county sales tax revenue is up and after they received $3.2 million in shale gas leasing money.
"I don't know what they are hoping to accomplish. The money is there," Brown said, "if they would just let me keep my copying money like they did with probate court."
Brown was referring to a decision made in April by commissioners allowing county juvenile/probate court to begin keeping the money it makes from making copies. Recorder office copying fees, which totaled $52,000 last year, goes into the county general fund.
He finds it interesting that commissioners are using shale gas lease money to spend on other, less important things.
"I'm very upset, considering my employees are going to lose their jobs when commissioners are paving the parking lot and planting trees," Brown said, referring to the courthouse parking lot project.
The workers to be laid off are Beverly and two regular staff employees, leaving only Brown and two other workers, "when I should have seven or eight," he said.
Beverly was hired earlier in the year with donations from the shale gas industry to staff an off-site office opened for people performing mineral rights searches on behalf of drilling companies. This was done to alleviate congestion at the courthouse, but the off-site location closed recently since the records are now available online.
Brown said keeping Beverly even with the shale gas companies continuing to pay her wages would result in a grievance since layoffs have to be done by seniority under the union contract.