Next year’s operating budget and the projected 2021 completion of two solar power generating facilities in southern Highland County commanded the attention of Highland County commissioners at their regular Wednesday meeting.
Commissioners Gary Abernathy and Jeff Duncan thanked voters for their support in Tuesday’s election, and along with commissioner Terry Britton, returned to the business at hand by receiving Auditor Bill Fawley’s projected budget for 2019.
“He has given us an estimated revenue of $10,150,000,” Britton said. “That is down from this year’s budget, which was $10.3 million, so we’ll be working with his figure of $10.15 million.”
Duncan said the commissioners have been working with county department heads to bring their expenditures in line with the auditor’s 2019 estimates, and expect to have the budget in place by mid-December.
“Our sales tax is roughly $500,000 less than it was last year,” Fawley told The Times-Gazette.
He explained the main reason for the decrease in sales tax revenue had to do with a tax law change regarding durable medical equipment sales to managed care organizations, such as nursing homes.
“Ohio had been collecting sales tax from Medicaid payments for managed care organizations on equipment such as wheelchairs and walkers,” he explained. “If it was paid for by private insurance, there was no sales tax.”
The federal government came in and told Ohio to cease that practice.
“Some of our neighboring counties took almost a 25 percent hit in their general fund when this happened,” he said. “Highland County fared better because there tends to be a greater number of nursing homes near cities, and those counties with large cities lost more sales tax revenue than we did.”
Commissioners recessed and went into executive session to meet with Doug Herling of Open Road Renewables, a renewable energy company that focuses on development of utility-scale clean energy projects in the United States.
The Austin, Texas-based corporation is working with Willowbrook Solar LLC to build a 100-megawatt solar facility in southern Highland County.
According to a recent news release from AEP Ohio, a 300-megawatt facility is in the planning stages from Hecate Energy Highland LLC.
Both projects are expected to be operational by the end of 2021 pending regulatory approval, the release stated.
Duncan said he had been told one of the facilities is planned for U.S. Route 62 south of the Old Y restaurant, and the other may be in the Mowrystown area.
The AEP news release went on to say that construction of the facilities is expected to support nearly 4,000 jobs in total and contribute $24 million in new state tax revenue, and $6.7 million in local tax revenue.
In other business, commissioners approved five routine spending resolutions and placed their signatures on four contracts, three of which dealt with the recent acquisition of vehicles for Job and Family Services.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.