Mahoning audit reveals savings, more efficiency

A state audit of the performance of the Mahoning County Engineer’s Office released Tuesday has revealed ways the office can save $566,000 annually.

Meanwhile, a similar review done by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost’s Office of the operations in Niles and audits of the city’s shaky finances appear to still be happening. A spokesman for Yost declined to comment on any of the audit’s statuses.

Under way now are the 2012 and 2013 financial audit, a performance audit sought by officials in early 2013 and a fourth special audit, which are typically launched by the state when fraud or misuse of public funds is suspected. A former employee of the Niles Treasurer’s Office faces a theft in office charge that accuses her of embezzling about $71,000 between January 2013 and June 2013.

Draft audits have shown the city’s utility funds are short by millions of dollars, financial records are in disarray and a city official may have made an illegal loan to a youth baseball league in Niles. Some of the findings already have been passed on to the investigative branch of Yost’s office.

In Mahoning County, ”modernizing the antiquated” operations of the engineer’s office would ”save money and increase efficiency,” according to a news release that accompanied the release of the audit.

The audit identifies a savings of $384,000 by renegotiating some of the items in the office’s agreement with union employees, including eliminating the 10 percent pension pick-up the county pays toward employee retirement. Doing so for the office’s 51 employees, according to the audit, would save $238,000 a year.

More than $98,000 more could be saved if one of the offices eliminated one of the operations supervisor positions. Also, doing so would bring the office’s benefits and staffing more in line with surrounding county engineer’s offices, according to the release.

In addition, using existing county payroll software rather than paper-based payroll and purchasing would reduce the need for one position, save $84,000 annually and ”eliminate data inaccuracies, reduce workloads and allow the office to make informed decisions,” according to the release.

Engineer Patrick Ginnetti sought the review of his office’s performance in June 2013, which is shortly after he took office.