No cuts in Highland County budget, for now


No cuts have been made to county departments’ proposed budgets for 2018, officials said Wednesday, but department heads were warned that possible losses in sales tax revenue could affect budgets later in the year.

Highland County Board of Commissioners President Shane Wilkin on Wednesday told county department representatives at a commissioners meeting that although some departments’ initial budget proposals had to be revised, no budgets have been cut. In fact, Wilkin said most departments experienced a slight increase this year.

But the county’s sales tax revenue, which Wilkin said makes up about 60 percent of the county’s income, is set to experience shortfalls following a change in federal law that blocks counties and transit authorities from collecting sales taxes from Medicaid-funded managed care organizations (MCOs) — amounting to a projected annual loss of about $807,000.

Wilkin told department representatives on Wednesday that budgets may have to be revisited later in the new year, depending on the sales tax numbers in 2018.

Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley told The Times-Gazette after the meeting that he’s cautiously optimistic.

“We always go in with conservative numbers, so we think we’re going to be alright,” he said. “Part of that depends on how other expenditures would go. For things like Children’s Services, if something comes up and they have to have more money… it has to come from some place. There are some things like that where we just may not know it’s going to happen.”

Last week, Fawley reported to the board the county’s projected funds for 2018, which total about $10.3 million — a roughly five-percent increase from last year.

“We’re just hoping that next year we’re going to be OK with that 10.3,” he said.

As reported by The Times-Gazette, the state has offered local governments affected by the law change a “transitional aid” package in the form of two cash payments for the affected entities to cushion the loss.

Highland County’s total payout is $1,802,649, which is divided between two payments. But Wilkin said those funds will not make up for longterm revenue losses that will accumulate each year from the loss of the MCO sales taxes.

“There’s really not a way we can replace that,” Wilkin said on Wednesday.

Wilkin said some Ohio counties have already had to make cuts.

Final budgets will be presented to the commissioners next week, Wilkin said, and the board will vote to approve the full 2018 budget on Wednesday, Dec. 27.

Also Wednesday, Steph Roland of the Highland County Veterans Service Commission requested a wage increase for members of the commission from $250 per month to $400 per month.

Wilkin said if the change is approved, the increase would take effect when a member is appointed or reappointed. Roland said one appointment or reappointment is made every year.

Wilkin said the matter will be referred to Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins for further review. If approved, the change will be a line item increase in the commission’s budget, Wilkin said.

According to Roland, the wage increase reflects other counties’ veterans service commission wages.

Roland said Highland County members “go above and beyond” their duties to serve local veterans.

In other business, the board accepted the resignation of commission clerk Rhonda Smalley, who wrote a letter of resignation dated Dec. 10.

In the letter, Smalley thanked the commissioners for allowing her the opportunity to work for the county, and said she had taken a job as a business administrator.

After the meeting, the board entered executive session to discuss personnel.

The commissioners also approved a resolution appointing local attorney J.D. Wagoner to the Highland County Law Library Resources Board, and approved routine financial resolutions.

Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.

Representatives of county departments attend a Highland County commissioners meeting to discuss the 2018 budget. of county departments attend a Highland County commissioners meeting to discuss the 2018 budget. David Wright | The Times-Gazette
County MCO sales tax loss still looms

By David Wright

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