LISBON -This year's budget hearings being conducted by Columbiana County commissioners are taking on a far different tone than those held in 2012.
Last year's hearings were extensive and contentious at times, with commissioners requiring officeholders to explain in detail their 2012 budget requests after having been asked to take a 5 percent cut.
The initial round of hearings last week were brief by comparison, with little or no questions for officeholders and department heads. Commission President Mike Halleck was asked afterwards why the apparent change.
"I don't know that it's much different ... I guess there was some conversation, but I don't know the end result will be any different," he said.
Unlike last year, officeholders are not being told to cut their budget requests by 5 percent to help commissioners deal with the loss of $600,000 in state funding for the county. Halleck conceded the financial situation is not as dire, with the county granted some breathing room because of a $1.2 million increase in sales tax collections, $275,000 in casino tax revenue and $1.7 million in shale gas lease money.
"We're obviously in much better shape than we were at this point last year," he said.
In addition, officeholders have held the line on spending. "For the most part, officeholders have done very well. They understand the challenges we face," Halleck said.
The budget hearings held were week were for the Soil and Water Conservation District, the county recorder, county treasurer, county clerk of courts and county prosecutor.
Only Prosecutor Robert Herron had much to say, telling commissioners that several grants and contracts he uses to fund positions in his offices - such as child support collection, delinquent tax collections and victim witness coordinator - have been cut to the point where he must absorb the cost of the programs within his general fund budget if they are to continue.
The prosecutor's office is on pace to spend $1.7 million this year and Herron said he needs $1.9 million from the general fund in 2013. His staff last received a pay raise in 2010.
"I realize it's a large number but it's a reasonable number given what we do," Herron said.
Treasurer Nick Barborak said his budget request includes nothing for pay raises. "If you look at it there's no frills ... There's just enough to run the office," he said.