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County officials hope to build up financial reserves

9/27/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

DOWNTOWN AKRON — If all goes as planned, Summit County officials will not need to dip into the county’s reserves to balance its budget by 2014, Summit County Council heard during committee meetings Sept. 24.

The county’s director of Finance and Budget, Brian Nelsen, presented an update on the county’s financial status. Nelsen said bright spots in the county include sales tax, which is ahead of projections, and conveyances, which are at the highest level since 2005.

“We are seeing improvement,” Nelsen said.

Still, the county is using some of its reserve funds this year and will again next year. But Nelsen said that should not need to be the case in 2014, particularly if the county refrains from providing any cost-of-living raises to employees, who have gone without wage increases for several years.

Nelsen said the county also needs to get back to putting money away to build up its reserves.

One potential source of income starting this year is revenue from the state’s new casinos. Nelsen has estimated the county could get $736,773 this year. But Councilwoman Ilene Shapiro (D-at large) cautioned the county must be mindful about what it does with that funding.

“That’s windfall money,” she said. “We should not build our budgets on that.”

Also Monday, the Planning and Economic Development Committee recommended Council adopt a resolution confirming a contract with AE Security Group for security upgrades at the Ohio Building, where most county offices are located. The contract would not exceed $66,300.

Brian Clark, of Physical Plants, said the project would entail the addition of secure access points at 10 places in the building. Employees would use a card access system to enter their work areas.

Visitors to those 10 areas would use a telephone to call the office they want to enter, and personnel will unlock the door, Clark said. Some areas of the building, such as counters at the Fiscal Office, will remain open and accessible to the public.

Committee members indicated they supported the project but weren’t sure if it was enough to keep staff secure.

“It’s not adequate,” Shapiro said. “I don’t think this is the end of the conversation.”

“We got as much done as we could,” Clark said. “To turn this into a fully secure building like the courthouse, that’s a whole other project.”

In other business, the Personnel Committee recommended Council adopt a resolution allowing the county to participate in the city of Akron’s drug and alcohol testing agreement with Summa’s Center for Corporate Health for 15 months.

Deb Matz, director of Law for the Executive’s Office, said the county was using another company for drug testing, but officials were not happy with some of the procedures being used. Summa had been used previously, she added.

Also, the committee recommended Council approve several pieces of legislation regarding insurance for employees, including a resolution to contract with Medical Mutual for mail-order prescriptions.

Wendy Weaver, deputy director of Employee Benefits, said there is the possibility the county’s retail pharmacy located on the first floor of the Ohio Building may not be operating after the first of the year because it is operated by a different vendor.

County Council will meet Oct. 1 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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