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Better days: More cash in county budget

December 13, 2012
Morning Journal News

LISBON - This is shaping up to be a pretty good year financially for Columbiana County commissioners, which is why most officeholders will receive additional funding next year.

Commissioners on Wednesday adopted a 2013 general fund budget totaling $18.1 million, an increase of $700,000 over the $17.4 million 2012 budget that reduced spending for most offices by 5 percent.

The budget has historically been a starting point, based on how much revenue the county auditor estimates will come in that year. Actual spending and revenue almost always exceed the figure by the end of the year, and 2012 was no exception.

The 2012 budget of $17.4 million, for example, appropriated every penny in general fund revenue the county was certified to receive this year, according to the county auditor's office. As of Dec. 10, general fund revenue had reached $23.1 million, with spending totaling $21.8 million. Next year should be no different.

"We did better than anticipated last year, and we want to thank the other officeholders for working with us," said Commission Chairman Mike Halleck.

Commissioners are using $55,000 in additional revenue to pay off three loans for equipment purchases one year early and $450,000 to pay the November-December bills for the company that operates the county jail.

"I don't want to go into next year with a lot of bills," he said.

The budget also sets aside another $500,000 to cover unanticipated claims made under the county's self-funded employee health insurance plan.

The 2013 budget provides significant budget increases for two offices in particular: $100,000 extra for the sheriff's office and an additional $120,000 for the prosecutor's office.

Halleck said they were fulfilling a promise to add $100,000 to the sheriff's budget when additional funding came available. As for the prosecutor's office, the additional funding was to help offset the loss of two grants that were used to pay for programs within the office.

"The prosecutor is getting more money but probably not as much as he needs to make up for the loss of the grants," he said.

There are several reasons for the significant increase in general fund revenue, with the first being the $3.2 million received from leasing county property for shale gas development, although $1.5 million of that immediately went to help resolve the East Liverpool-versus-Buckeye Water District lawsuit.

The other two big reasons: County sales tax collections are up by $1.4 million over 2011 levels through November, and the county also has received $275,000 in first-time casino tax revenue from the state.

Commissioners attributed the 11.5 percent spike in sales tax revenue to residents spending some of the money received from leasing their property for shale gas development. Halleck expects the boom from lease spending to taper off.

"I don't look for that to go up a lot. We'd be happy if it just stayed the same," he said.

The 2013 budget did not include any funding for the county office on aging or the fair board, but Halleck said they will eventually provide them with some money, as they have in past years.

"We'll get money to them later. We're not going to forget about them," he said.



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