Richland County Courthouse

Richland County Courthouse

MANSFIELD -- The Richland County Prosecutor's Office on Tuesday made a $2 million budget request for 2020 during a hearing with county commissioners.

The biggest portion of the request, about $1.3 million, would go to salaries,  largely unchanged from 2019.

It was one of five budget hearings conducted on Tuesday, including the wastewater treatment department, treasurer's office, emergency management agency and dog warden's office.

Commissioners must finalize a temporary budget by the end of the year. Current appropriations for 2019 total around $33.5 million.

Hearings continue on Thursday with the soil and water conservation department, the building and maintenance department, and Dayspring, the county home.

Prosecutor Gary Bishop and office administrator Anita Kochheiser told commissioners they continue to encounter problems with staffing due to low salaries, which has led to increased turnover and also difficulty in filling vacancies.

Bishop told commissioners his office recently lost its attorney working in juvenile court, who left for a job in Montgomery County that paid more than the $42,000 they were making in the local prosecutor's office.

"It's OK to compare our salaries to counties of comparable size, but we are in competition with all of the counties," Bishop said.

The prosecutor's office has 12 assistant prosecutors handling criminal and civil work, not including the vacant position. Four of those slots are budgeted at less than $50,000 each in 2019.

The office has nine support positions budgeted for 2020. No new positions were requested for next year.

Commissioners said they understand the need for increased salaries in the prosecutor's office, including the wages paid to secretarial staff.

"We have an immediate problem with the hiring of qualified attorneys," said Commissioner Marilyn John, who is working with the prosecutor's office to develop a three-year plan to help alleviate the problem.

None of the departments' 2020 budget requests on Tuesday requested significant increases over this year's estimated expenses.

During his hearing, county Treasurer Bart Hamilton reported he is now estimating $1.4 million in interest income for 2019, which would be a 10 percent increase over the $1,267,896 earned in 2018.

Also on Tuesday, commissioners didn't receive word from S&P Global regarding a potential new bond credit rating for the county. The committee reviewing the county's financial situation was not meeting until late Tuesday afternoon.

Commissioners had a positive credit rating teleconference on Nov. 12 with a representative from S&P. They are seeking to refund some long-term bonds and replace them with lower-interest notes, which could save more than $500,000 in interest payments over the next 17 years.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"