After two days during which Trumbull County’s purse strings were tied for lack of a temporary budget, county commissioners Niki Frenchko and Frank Fuda approved the year’s first-quarter spending plan Wednesday.
As first reported by Mahoning Matters on Tuesday, the commissioners’ Monday meeting measure to approve the temporary budget was never brought to a vote due to pushback from Frenchko, temporarily leaving the county without a way to pay bills, insurance claims or any other necessary payments.
Frenchko said she wasn’t given opportunity to review budget documentation before the vote and objected to simply “rubber stamping” a spending plan. Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa was out sick Monday, leaving only Frenchko and Fuda to disagree and, ultimately, take no action.
“This is very important to the county,” Fuda said during the commissioners’ 2 hour and 40 minute Wednesday meeting, when the budget was brought back up for a vote.
Frenchko told Mahoning Matters on Monday she feels “utterly frustrated” that she hasn’t had more input in the county’s budgeting process.
Before taking action, Frenchko pushed to recess in order to obtain a large, hard-copy ream of budget documents, including the county’s proposed temporary appropriations for the first three months of the year, which are based on 25% of the previous year’s spending.
Frenchko said she had previously asked for written documentation that the county’s budgets are typically based on 25% of the prior year’s spending. Until then, that information had been relayed only verbally, and the commissioner said she wouldn’t rely on that.
County Auditor Adrian Biviano joined the meeting by phone to confirm the temporary budget’s usual spending estimates.
Both commissioners voted in favor, and the measure was approved.
Temporary budgets are common practice for county governments. Many boards approve them the December before they take effect. They give officials a spending plan allowing them to legally pay bills and employees while working out a finalized annual budget for the year, which must be passed before April 1 under state law.
“Miss Frenchko, you’ve been here a year now — it’s time for you to come and learn about the county instead of constantly badgering people,” Fuda said during Wednesday’s meeting. “Communication by word-of-mouth is very important, especially as commissioner. Emails and all of that stuff you don’t read much of the time are causing the problem here.”