Geauga County Commissioners approved a motion last week to return $242,104 to the 2023 budget for the Geauga County Automatic Data Processing Board, which provides IT assistance and oversight to county offices. That amount will fund three employees’ salaries, including payroll, Medicare and the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, Clerk Christine Blair said.
Also at issue was another $920,000 request from ADP for equipment and contract services.
The $1.3 million in total requested by ADP is to go toward its ongoing project to strengthen the county’s cybersecurity, which involves infrastructure upgrades. Commissioner Tim Lennon said the two bodies are now in agreement about what ADP is trying to accomplish.
In its 2023 budget submission, ADP requested $240,000 for three additional employees’ salaries, county Auditor Chuck Walder, who serves as ADP’s chief administrator, said.
The requests are the recommendations that came out of two separate presentations from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Black Box, an outsourced IT company that advises companies on cyber risk, over the last 18 months to advise on the county’s cybersecurity risks, Mr. Walder said. They recommended having certain disciplines staffed, including cybersecurity and network specialists, he said. “Both of them came to us with recommendations of infrastructure changes to bolster our cybersecurity.”
From the recommendations, ADP planned to hire three individuals for $242,000. That request was initially approved by the commissioners and appeared in the county’s 2023 budget. But ADP board members said the accounting system showed the commissioners’ office removed it from the budget in November.
When the removal of the $242,000 was brought up by ADP board members at their Jan. 9 meeting, Mr. Lennon expressed concerns that ADP’s budget had increased by $240,000 from the previous year. He said he did not know whether the two requests would be one-time purchases for infrastructure or continuing expenses.
At the Jan. 19 commissioners meeting, Mr. Lennon said he now agrees with Mr. Walder about the need to fund the $242,000 request “after discussing it on multiple occasions in private.”
Mr. Lennon went on to discuss another component to ADP’s request, the $920,000 request for equipment and contract services.
The commissioners had removed approximately $400,000 in contract services and $520,000 in capital outlay from ADP’s budget.
Contract services costs are expected to be 100% recurring “with some typical annual inflationary increases from vendors,” Mr. Walder wrote in an email to Mr. Lennon.
“We are doing our best to optimize our contracts to limit increases,” he said. “Capital outlay, however, changes year to year. In 2024-2025 it will likely be reduced by 40% from non-reoccurring expenditures.”
Most requests that are removed from the budget can be returned as budget supplements. Mr. Lennon said he and Mr. Walder agreed that, in the future, the $920,000 will be added to the budget as a supplemental and that Mr. Walder “agreed to work with us in keeping us up to speed on what those initiatives are going to be, every step of the way.”
Mr. Lennon said the money will be used for “capital-improvement-type” purchases to update the county’s infrastructure, which will not continue into the next years of ADP’s budget.
He added that ADP’s request to the commissioners for $1.3 million in total is “not a normal request.” It will likely amount to one-third of the sheriff’s office budget.
“Obviously, the salaries and such will” be continuing expenses, Mr. Lennon said. He does not expect the costs of moving to the cloud and updating servers to continue, but the funds and staff are needed for that transition, he said.
Commissioner Jim Dvorak expressed agreement with restoring the funding to ADP’s budget. It will bring the county “more up to date” regarding cybersecurity, he said. “We haven’t invested that much in IT over the years. I feel it’s a step in the right direction.”
The commissioners’ budget and finance manager, Adrian Gorton, said Mr. Walder told him during a budget hearing that the funding was for the “first step in a multi-step process,” and “steps will become less and less.”
Mr. Lennon said his main takeaway from speaking with Mr. Walder was that they agreed to begin to try to “work together and communicate better.” He added, “Maybe it’s my fault that we have not communicated in detail about what that money is going to be for.”
Mr. Lennon said the commissioners have been consistent in giving budget supplements and that ADP’s project is “one tree in the forest” when it comes to county departments receiving funds from the commissioners. “We do have other projects that we’ve been talking about: the airport, multiple other things with the fairgrounds and other big-ticket initiatives,” he said.