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Committee moves forward on BOE budget

8/9/2012 - South Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Compromise may be on the horizon as Summit County Council is set to adopt this year’s budget for the Summit County Board of Elections (BOE).

On Aug. 6, Council’s Finance Committee discussed and recommended Council adopt a resolution regarding the budget, which would be nearly $6.2 million for the year.

The amount is more than the $4.7 million originally offered by the Executive’s Office but less than the $9.3 million the BOE originally requested for this year, which BOE officials said will require a high level of funding due to the presidential election.

Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry, said all four BOE members have “commented favorably” about the proposed budget amount.

Dodson said that during the last eight months there have been several meetings between Pry’s office and the BOE, and the two parties went back and forth on budget amounts, eventually coming to an agreement.

But Dodson said the Executive’s Office does not want the BOE to take its offer as an indication that it needs to make no further spending reductions.

“We still believe there are operating efficiencies through technology … but at this point in time they will not be instituted by November,” Dodson said.

He added that one area that the BOE continues to see as an issue when comparing its operation to those of similar counties is that those counties use touch-screen technology for voting, rather than optical scan machines, and their costs of doing elections is less. In Montgomery County, Dodson said, the elections budget is lower by about $3 million.

Dodson said he couldn’t speculate as to how much it would cost to switch systems but added it would mean an up-front investment by the county.

Brian Nelsen, director of finance and budget for the county, said the BOE is increasing its budget for part-time employees to work on absentee ballots for the Nov. 6 General Election, as there is the expectation that more people will be taking advantage of that this year.

Dodson said Joe Matich and Kim Zurz, BOE directors, are expected to be at next week’s Council meeting to answer questions before Council votes.

Also Monday, the Planning and Economic Development Committee recommended Council adopt a resolution to allow the Department of Development to oversee the Summit County Land Reutilization Corp. land bank.

Dodson said by setting up the land bank in this way, there will be no new staff necessary to hire to oversee the program, which is getting $3.8 million from the Ohio Attorney General’s office to demolish abandoned structures countywide.

He also presented a spreadsheet to the committee to show where the bulk of the funds would be funneled. Akron would get the most, nearly $4 million, which would allow the city to address between 529 and 794 vacant properties. Springfield would receive $381,000 to address between 51 and 76 properties. In other local communities, Lakemore would receive $147,201 to address between 20 and 29 properties; Green would receive $82,843 to address between 11 and 17 properties; Coventry would receive $72,519 to deal with between 10 and 15 properties; Norton would receive $55,335 to address between seven and 11 properties; and New Franklin would receive $37,730 to address between five and eight properties.

Communities were being notified of the amounts this week and were asked to sign a subagreement to participate, Dodson said.

He added that Akron and Barberton already have begun tearing down some structures as part of the program. Between May 1 and Aug. 1, Akron addressed 55 properties.

In other business, the Planning and Economic Development Committee recommended Council adopt a resolution accepting the recommendations of the Tax Incentives Review Council regarding enterprise zone agreements in the county.

Among the agreements was one with J&K Subway/Prout, in Green, which expires in 2014 and was recommended to continue; and Diebold, which expired at the end of 2011 and resulted in all commitments being met.

During the Rules Committee meeting, the committee put on time an amended ordinance to make the county’s Animal Control ordinances adhere to changes in state law as a result of Substitute House Bill 14. There are new designations for nuisance, dangerous and vicious dogs.

Dodson added there could be additional changes suggested due to changes in exotic animal laws in the state.

Summit County Council will meet Aug. 13 at 5 p.m. for caucus and 5:05 p.m. for the regular meeting in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St.

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