Finance committee to review budget requests

STEUBENVILLE — The city’s finance committee will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday to review budget requests from police, fire, parks and recreation, buildings and the planning commission.

At this week’s meeting, council heard from Municipal Court Judge John J. Mascio, who is requesting mostly minor adjustments. He did ask the committee to consider a pay raise for his community service projects director, a city employee he said is doing a wonderful job. He said a $1.33 per hour pay raise would only cost the city about $3,000, including benefits.

Mascio pointed out he released about $30,000 from the court’s special projects account last year, “and this year I’m committed to releasing $40,000.” That’s money the city can use for community service projects.

“My intent is to continue to (release funds) on a continuing basis,” he said. “In a way, we’re paying her salary.”

Mascio said defendants who can’t pay fines work off their debt by doing community service work, including cutting weeds, picking up litter, cleaning and sidewalk and courthouse maintenance which, in itself, saves the city about $50,000.

He also pointed out video arraignments have been a game-changer, allowing defendants to remain at the jail, “so officers don’t have to transport them” back-and-forth.

“Another thing that’s been huge, it benefits us, is a lot of people used to come here on a daily basis and congregate,” Mascio said. “They’re not here anymore.”

“It’s eliminated a lot of the safety concerns we had,” he added. “We had people who’d come to court, then go back to jail with drugs or weapons (concealed.)”

Mascio also said at some point, the city is going to have to figure out a way to add a security checkpoint and update its recording equipment, both of which will be costly. He said adding a scanner to the main entrance could cost in the $100,000 range and would have to be staffed by an armed guard.

“We did form a committee to look at it, but we just let it go because of the cost involved,” he said.

Likewise, Law Director Costa Mastros told the committee his budget will remain largely the same, other than a few hundred dollars more for supplies.

Members did discuss the need to earmark funds for traveling to state and national conferences, particularly the Ohio Municipal League where “you have an opportunity to actually affect state legislation.”