A contract was approved by the Highland County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday for an upgrade in telecommunications lines at the Justice Center, which will save the county money.
Commissioner Jeff Duncan said later Wednesday that the board had been meeting with AT&T since November discussing switching the current copper lines for fiber optics. It is a change that Duncan said would cut the current phone bill for the Justice Center nearly in half.
Duncan said the installation may not begin for up to six months, but once the fiber optics are installed the changeover would occur within a day and AT&T personnel would be on-site during the change. There will be no interruption in phone service, he said.
He said that in the future the Internet capability of the fiber optics can be utilized as well.
The motion to approve the contract was unanimously approved.
There was also discussion in regard to the tax revenue that will be lost come July 1 when taxes from medical equipment purchased through Medicaid can no longer be collected, and the impact that will have on budgets.
Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley remarked on a press conference given by Gov. John Kasich last week on the biennial budget and the money that will be lost when the state can no longer collect the tax.
Fawley said later Wednesday that the state had a plan to make up for its possible $500 million loss, but not a plan for the $200 million the state’s counties will lose. He said while a temporary solution is being discussed, the only way to help the counties would be by legislative action.
Fawley previously said that in 2015 the Medicaid-related tax revenue for Highland County amounted to $807,000. This year’s budget reflected the loss of the Medicaid-related tax with the general fund budget of $9.81 million, nearly $200,000 less than last year’s general fund budget.
Commission president Shane Wilkin said he believed state legislators know that something needs done. Wilkin noted the burden the drug issue has put on Children Services everywhere, adding that Ohio is 50th in the nation on funding that agency. He said even if that funding were doubled and based on the per capita rate, the state would still be 50th.
On another matter, Fawley presented the January 2017 permissive sales tax revenues as $552,490. That is a $21,738 increase from January 2016, and a $31,034 increase from 2015.
The money is from sales taxes collected in the county in a given month. The money is received by the county monthly and goes to the county’s general fund.
The Highland County Board of Commissioners meets each Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. on the second floor of the Highland County Administration Building, 119 Governor Foraker Pl., Hillsboro. The meetings are open to the public. The board office can be reached by calling 937-393-1911.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.