MANSFIELD -- Richland County Prosecutor Gary Bishop told county commissioners Tuesday he was "coming hat in hand" to seek additional funding for an office strained by an increasing caseload.
Bishop said his assistant prosecutors are handling on average 237 cases at any one time in criminal court, stretching them to the point "they are not able to do the quality of work" they are capable of doing.
"We desperately need it. We are barely treading water in terms of case management," Bishop said, telling commissioners he would like to hire an additional, experienced prosecutor.
Bishop, who noted reduced federal and state funding for Victims of Crime Assistance had had also impacted his office's budget, said his assistant prosecutors were in court five days a week and had little time for other duties, including interviewing victims and witnesses and preparing for future court appearances.
He said an assistant prosecutor with six years of experience would cost about $60,000 annually.
After a lengthy discussion with Bishop and his office administrator, Audrea Daniel, commissioners said they would increase the prosecutor's funding to an additional $85,000 for the 2022 budget and would consider additional funding in 2021 if Bishop is able to hire another assistant prosecutor this year.
The funds could be used to pay for an additional attorney and help to resolve the shortfall in VOCA. Commissioners said Bishop, as an elected official, would decide how best to use the funds.
"There is no guarantee I will find someone," Bishop said. "I struggled mightily the last time when I was trying to hire. If I can't find someone, I am not going to spend the money."
Bishop said he was also looking at ways to restructure his office in an attempt to reallocate funds.
Commissioners pointed out mid-year general fund budget requests in late June from county departments for 2022 came in at $41 million, about 13 percent more than the projected revenue of $36 million.
It's not unusual for mid-year budget requests to exceed projected revenues, commissioners said.
"We are adding to an (overall general fund) budget that we know we're going to have to cut," Commissioner Tony Vero said, though he joined fellow commissioners Darrell Banks and Cliff Mears in approving the additional funds for the prosecutor.
"We are adding to our cutting responsibility in 2022," Vero said.