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Commissioners discuss 'tightening the belt' in county's budget

By SARA KLEIN Mr. Thrifty Staff Writer Published: June 9, 2016 12:00 AM

Carroll County commissioners began the county's annual mid-cycle budget planning process at the board's May 6 meeting with discussions about a 10-percent cutback that the board is asking each county department to make over the next year.

According to the board, County Auditor Lynn Fairclough has reported that the county has about $1 million in unspent funds from last year's budget and is anticipated to see about $6 million in revenue this year.

"If it holds true, and this is just numbers that she's listed in the forecast...to have a 10-percent decrease in funds, then we're going to have to tighten our belts," Commissioner Jeff Ohler remarked.

The county is also seeing a shortfall in sales tax as a result of the lull in the oil and gas industry.

"Up to this point now we're off about $400,000 in income from last year," stated Board President Robert Wirkner.

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"The dynamic we're going to have to know is when is that decline going to bottom out. ...I would say that come the end of July we're going to have a good grip on what we can anticipate," he added, noting that the board will receive the county's six-month budget forecast from the county auditor's office at the end of July.

Budget talks on May 6 included separate sessions with the sheriff's department, clerk of courts, board of elections and municipal court.

County Sheriff Dale Williams expressed concern about having enough time to identify areas in his budget for cuts and noted that state laws result in mandatory expenses for the sheriff's department.

He said the state requires that a sheriff's department retain a specific number of employees staff the county jail. Additionally, Williams said the department will incur expenses as it upgrades its technical infrastructure to support the state-mandated 911 Next Generation system for emergency dispatching.

The cost of jail inmates' medical care, an expense that Ohio Revised Code requires the sheriff's department to pay if inmates have no insurance, was another area of concern for Williams.

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The sheriff's department is also requesting a three-percent raise for its employees as required by a contract the county signed with the Fraternal Order of Police. Williams noted that $1.5 million of the sheriff department's $2 million budget is spent on personnel costs.

He said a 10-percent cut to his budget could affect staffing levels in the sheriff's department.

"I've already done the math. I'd have to cut eight people," he stated.

Commissioners discussed options to help decrease the sheriff's budget, including ideas to cut the department's fuel costs, an expense that Williams said has affected his budget.

The board's May 6 meeting also included discussion about the Northern Corridor project to bring water and sewer service from Malvern down a portion of state Route 43.

Commissioners are in the midst of approving legislation and documents required for the county to seek a loan with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support the $6 million project.

Ohler said the board is also applying for a $3 million grant from the federal Economic Development Administration as well as for grants from the state's Community Development Block Grant program, Ohio Governor's Office of Appalachia, and for federal funds that Ohler said were recently approved for counties that saw a loss of jobs in the coal industry.

Ohler said the county would use the grants with plans to borrow less money from the USDA.

"We're hoping our need to borrow money is going to be probably around $750,000, which is quite good based on a $6 million project," he commented.

At the board's May 2 meeting, commissioners focused on moving forward with a proposed levy for the county's health department.

The board approved a resolution that will enable County Prosecutor Don Burns to work with commissioners on drafting language about the levy for the election ballot.

Wirkner said the board is still working with health department officials and the county auditor to determine how many years the levy would cover and what the amount of the levy should be.

The resolution passed by the board is one of three required before the levy language can be sent to the Carroll County Board of Elections.

In other business, the board:

/ HEARD the County Dog Pound report for May 30-June 4: 15 dogs impounded, seven adopted, two redeemed, none euthanized, eight citations for no license and no citations for running at large.

The report for May 23-28 was: 11 dogs impounded, 13 adopted, none redeemed, none euthanized, eight citations for no license and no citations for running at large.

/ ANNOUNCED that bids for the county's resurfacing project this year will be accepted until the bid opening at 9:30 a.m. on July 14 in the board of commissioners office. Specifications can be picked up at the county engineer's office.

/ HEARD that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency will hold public information sessions regarding seven draft air permits for the installation and operation of compressor stations in Carroll, Crawford, Defiance, Harrison, Monroe, Noble and Wayne counties as part of the proposed Rover Pipeline.

Carroll County's hearing is June 21, 6 p.m., at Harrison Elementary Barr Memorial Gym, 322 W. Main St., Scio.

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