Mahoning officials dispute report on raises

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Just a few days after a newspaper article was published claiming 760 Mahoning County employees got raises last year, Mahoning County commissioners and department heads fired back with a few numbers of their own.

Commissioners said there were actually 761 pay adjustment allocations in 2013, but board chairman David Ditzler said it is wrong to call them all raises.

He broke the numbers down this way: 336 pay adjustments were for non-general fund positions that are overseen by boards or levies. And 207 came from Mahoning County Sheriff’s deputies getting back concessions and returning to 2008 wages.

“All of those numbers, when you look at them, cherry pick them from 2012 to 2013, are very misleading. And that was our focus today, to try and show you what the numbers really mean, how it equates back to the sales tax,” Ditzler said.

The Mahoning County Solid Waste Management District is funded by landfill disposal fees, not the general fund. Director Lou Vega saw his salary increase from $45,000 to a little more than $72,000 in 2013. He was promoted, and took on more work when two other positions were eliminated.

“It’s not the small increase for the redistribution of the work, but it’s the savings of $120,000, I think that’s the real story,” Vega said.

Commissioners said they have cut 289 positions from fiscal year 2009 to 2013, saving the county $7.5 million in payroll alone during that time. But they said they still need voters to approve a half-cent sales tax renewal at the polls in May to avoid layoffs.

Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene called the article misleading and said it cripples the county’s efforts to get voters to approve the renewal.

“It’s hurting the chances of that tax getting renewed and we all know how that budget shortfall will get balanced. It will get balanced on the backs of the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office,” Greene said.

“You cannot live on a half cent and expect your county services to be the best that you want them to be,” said Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti.

Commissioners said they’re trying to be more transparent in letting the public know how each employee is compensated and the reasons for any increase in salary.

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