Portage County commissioners and the sheriff are in a budget battle brought on, in part, by health care provisions for part-time workers under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Sheriff David Doak has said he will cut the hours of part-time security staff at county courthouses and other buildings to lessen the potential financial impact of health care costs next year.

Under the act, part-time employees who work an average in excess of 30 hours per week are eligible for health care coverage. Commissioners asked Doak to cut back the hours of his part-time deputies during a three-month "look back period."

With 37 part-time deputies, having them eligible for health insurance could cost the county another $280,000 per year said Todd Bragg, the commissioners' budget management director.

At a contentious Sept. 5 meeting, a majority of commissioners refused to give Doak another $185,000 to keep him from going into the red by the end of the year.

Doak sent a letter to commissioners after the meeting proposing to cut the hours of part-time deputies, including several who provide security at the Kent and Ravenna courthouses and county administration buildings.

Commissioner Tommie Jo Marsilio said she wanted to give the sheriff the money out of the county's stabilization fund, but didn't receive support from the other commissioners.

Commissioner Kathleen Chandler said she was reluctant to tap the stabilization money for the sheriff's budget because it was not a true emergency.

Chandler said she is frustrated with the sheriff's budget growing beyond the original appropriation each year.

In the past six years, commissioners have allocated additional funds ranging from $431,128 in 2007 to nearly $1 million last year. So far this year, commissioners have added $447,946 to the sheriff's original appropriation of $11,707,913.

Email: msever@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4154