The Highland County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday handed out budget packets to General Fund department heads and representatives, warning of revenue losses and increasing costs.
During the board’s weekly meeting, board President Shane Wilkin said the county is losing an average of $60,000 per month in permissive sales tax revenue due to a federal directive blocking the the State of Ohio, counties and transit authorities from collecting sales tax on medical items purchased with insurance.
The state, which benefited from the tax revenue, conducted a survey and estimated the county would lose about $807,000 per year, according to Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley. The state then offered two cash payments totalling $1.8 million for Highland County, to help “get us over the hump until other sales tax or whatever picks up,” Fawley said recently.
After that, the state replaced the tax with a fee, but none of the revenue from the fee was directed toward local governments, according to Fawley.
Wilkin on Wednesday told department representatives that the county has lost $300,000 so far this year. Commissioner Jeff Duncan said the county is on track to hit the $807,000 mark. Wilkin added after the meeting that in August and September, traditionally the lowest revenue months, he expects the county to take a “big hit.”
Wilkin said as sales tax revenue declines later in the year, the county may have to cut funding to the local OSU Extension Office.
Highland County’s 2018 General Fund budget is $10,344,152.66, according to commission Clerk Mary Remsing. The largest department budget in the county is the Highland County Sheriff’s Office at $2,685,440.27, Remsing said.
Wilkin said Fawley gave each department’s budget a “bottom line” which is not to be exceeded, and additional budget requests “are going to need to be light,” adding that he doesn’t see room for expansion or extra hiring across the board.
“There is probably not going to be extra money,” Wilkin said.
Wilkin said the county’s foster care placement costs take up a large chunk of county finances – annually about $1.7 million, according to Highland County Job and Family Services Director Katie Adams – and those costs must be paid no matter how much revenue the county takes in.
Wilkin added that the county’s insurance costs are likely to increase, potentially by double digits, later in the year. He said the county’s insurance claims outspend premiums. The board is currently “trying to explore some different options,” Wilkin added.
Commissioner Terry Britton said the county also has several high-dollar maintenance projects coming up, including roof replacement on some county buildings.
The meeting took a more lighthearted turn when Wilkin said he had hoped to be appointed representative of Ohio’s 91st House District before bearing bad budget news to department representatives, but due to gridlock in the House of Representatives, his expected appointment to fill the remainder of former state Rep. Cliff Rosenberger’s term has been in limbo. Britton joked that he and Duncan had stalled Wilkin’s appointment so he would have to stay.
Wilkin thanked department heads for cooperating with the board, adding, “All of you have been outstanding to work with.”
Britton also thanked department heads for keeping their budgets under control.
The commissioners also awarded bids for two county road projects.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.