Citing permissive sales tax numbers that remained stable despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley advised county commissioners Jeff Duncan, Terry Britton and David Daniels that the estimated resources for the upcoming 2021 county operating budget (general fund) would be $11.3 million.
Last year’s budget was $10.6 million.
“The biggest increase in the estimated revenue is the sales tax,” Fawley said. “But we did have some other adjustments in there as well, such as the fees and collections, which have gone down a little.”
Fawley’s projected budget estimate for 2021 included:
• $2 million in real estate property taxes, which he said remained the same from last year’s budget since there hasn’t been a reappraisal.
• $6.8 million in permissive sales tax, which Duncan said had been surprisingly good this year when considering what had been anticipated in March when the pandemic began to materialize.
• $500,000 in casino revenue.
• $400,000 in local government funds, which Fawley said had decreased from this past year. He pointed out that legislation put in place when commissioner Daniels was a state representative didn’t allow that figure to drop below $375,000 in any of the smaller counties.
• $800,000 in fees.
• $800,000 in other receipts.
“In our conversations and planning, we’ve been talking about an $11.3 million budget, and everybody is fairly comfortable with that,” Fawley said. “It’s a conservative budget, because we always start out that way.”
Daniels cautioned that though the numbers showed an increase, he didn’t feel it was something that guaranteed a solid revenue stream for the future.
“I think it’s important to recognize that if this is something that happens two or three years in row, it’s something you can count on,” he said. “A one-year bump is not something that you can rely on.”
Britton said it would be the goal of the commissioner’s office to finalize the 2021 budget by the Wednesday, Dec. 16 meeting.
For the first time in several months, Wednesday’s regular meeting was held in the commissioners offices on the second floor of the Highland County Administration Building, with Duncan and Daniels appearing in-person, and Britton taking part via video link due to, as he put it, “a non-COVID related illness.”
Daniels said that the Ohio legislature is now allowing numerous public meetings to take place virtually via video conference due to the pandemic, and said that he felt they would continue into the foreseeable future.
“There are some rules and guidelines set forth that tell how we will need to conduct them,” he said.
Duncan said the annual County Commissioners and Engineers Associations of Ohio annual winter conference and trade show will be going on Dec. 9-11, and the event will be conducted virtually.
“We’re all signed up for it, and we’ll be attending that, but we’ll be sitting here doing it,” Duncan said. “Things have changed in the past year from what we’re used to doing.”
In other matters, 12 resolutions that contained either budget modifications or line item budget transfers were approved, in addition to one master leasing contract with the clerk of courts.
Commission president Duncan was authorized to execute a sub-grant agreement amendment with Highland County Community Action Organization and the Area 7/Greater Ohio Workforce Board through 2023.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.