The Highland County Board of Commissioners finalized an $11.3 million budget for 2021 on Wednesday.
The commissioners’ regular Wednesday meeting covered resolutions, contracts and last-minute coronavirus relief funding requests in addition to next year’s budget.
“Mainly the order of business for today is cleaning up the year and getting ready for next year,” commission president Jeff Duncan said.
Vice president Terry Britton said the general fund budget remained at $11.3 million, as endorsed last week by county auditor Bill Fawley, who described it as “a conservative budget because we always start out that way.”
In other financial matters, Fawley said Wednesday that permissive/sales tax receipts for the year topped out at over $7.5 million, outpacing last year’s figure of $6.8 million. The receipts showed a positive gain of over $688,000 for the month of December.
Duncan recalled his initial concern at the start of the pandemic in March that county revenue would suffer, as was the case in neighboring counties.
“When this first started, we were concerned about our revenue shrinking, and the last thing we wanted to do was lay anyone off,” Duncan said. “Fortunately, it’s been a very pleasant surprise in that we fared very well, and it became very apparent that a lot of that stimulus money stayed here in the county and was spent locally, and that’s been a blessing to not have to deal with a shortfall.”
Britton said that at the onset of the pandemic, many counties were forced to slash their budgets by 20 percent, but Highland County never had to go that route.
Duncan reported that, after meeting with the Highland County Health Department earlier Wednesday morning, the COVID-19 vaccine was expected to arrive next week. First responders will receive the initial inoculations.
“They were going over their list of first responders to see who might be willing to come forward and take the vaccine before Christmas, but most of it will probably be administered after Christmas,” Warner said.
The health department will receive the Moderna vaccine, which doesn’t require storage at sub-zero temperatures. However, the Moderna vaccine must be administered at least 24 hours after it’s removed from refrigeration.
“That was the conversation that we had this morning,” Warner said, “however, within that 24-hour period, they can bring it back and put it back into refrigeration if they don’t use it all.”
In some good news on the coronavirus front, Warner said that Highland District Hospital had reported that hospitalizations had “leveled off and maybe even turned down a little bit the last few days, so hopefully, that’s a good sign.”
Also Wednesday, the commissioners approved a total of 23 line-item budget transfer resolutions, including a waiver of the monthly sewer fee for addresses on Fascination Way and Pied Piper Parkway at Rocky Fork Lake.
The commissioners also approved a pair of contracts Wednesday: one with the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) for administrative hearing officer Adam J. King and the other a family preservation service contract with Pressley Ridge.
In other matters, Duncan said unused COVID-19 funds, which were returned from some Highland County townships, will be dispersed.
A $2,423.67 request for reimbursement of administrative leave due to quarantine events was approved by a 4-1 vote for the Highland County Dog Pound.
Another $45,600.39 charitable request for funding was unanimously approved to provide assistance to 10 food pantries and the Highland County Homeless Shelter.
Because He Lives Food Pantry, Inc., The Friendly Village Community Center, Samaritan Outreach Services, Greenfield Area Christian Center, Hillsboro First United Methodist Church, Area 937 Ministries, New Life Ministry, Greater Life Assembly, Pricetown Church of Christ and Bright Local Food Pantry, in addition to the homeless shelter, will each receive $4,145.95.
Due to Christmas, there will be no commissioners meeting Wednesday, Dec. 23, but the commissioners will reconvene for the final time of the year on Dec. 30.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571