Archbold, OH

Commissioners Face General Fund Trouble

For what may be the first time ever, the Fulton County Commissioners are not starting the New Year with a final, approved general fund budget.

Joe Short, Fulton County commissioner, said under Ohio law, the commissioners have until April 1 to approve a budget.

The commissioners are waiting to see what the revenues and expenditures were for 2008 before approving a 2009 budget, he said.

Budget Commission

Each year, the county budget commission meets and estimates how much money the commissioners will receive for the general fund from various sources, including property taxes.

That’s the money the commissioners have to spend the following year.

The commission, made up of Nancy Yackee, auditor, Beverly Schlosser, treasurer, and Roger Nagel, prosecutor, certifies the estimation and delivers it to the county commissioners.

“At this time, what our county budget commission has certified is about $10.3 million,” Short said.

But Short said the amount certified by the budget commission is low, “significantly lower than it has been in recent memory.”

The budget commission has traditionally been conservative when it estimates revenue. This time, Short said the commissioners believe the commission may have been overly pessimistic.

Many county operations have their own sources of revenue. For example, the county engineer office receives money from the motor fuel tax. The Fulton County Senior Center has its own property tax levy.

But some county departments, such as the sheriff offi ce and other courthouse offices (auditor, treasurer, recorder, clerk of courts, etc.) get their money from the general fund.

Short said when the original requests for operating funds came in from the departments support by the general fund, they topped $12.6 million.

So far, the commissioners have managed to cut about $1.3 million out of the requests, but even so, revenue as projected by the budget commission still exceeds expenses.

Pay Hike

Short said he and fellow commissioners Dean Genter and Paul Barnaby make a good team.

“We are working very hard to be as creative as possible, to help the taxpayers by lowering the general fund cost,” he said.

Last week, the commissioners granted a 2% pay raise to county workers who are not covered by union contracts.

Unionized workers, such as those in the Fulton County sheriff and engineer departments, received about a 3% raise, as per their contract.

On the other hand, Short said the commissioners were able to make adjustments to the county’s medical insurance policy, lowering premiums. The 2% wage hike, plus insurance premium cuts, equal about a 3% hike for non-union workers.

“We need to be sensitive to our employees who are not in a union. We are asking them to do more with less people.

“Our employees do a good job of stepping up. They have made sure the service they provide has not been diminished,” Short said.

Cost Cuts

When asked about other ways the commissioners have made changes to save money, Short pointed to the county Emergency Services office.

Before, there were three fulltime workers and two part-time employees. Today, the office operates with two full-time and one part-time worker.

The commissioner office also has seen cutbacks. At one time, the commissioners had five employees. Today, they’re making do with two.

They’re also looking at changing a position in the county workforce development office, so that person can be paid by the State of Ohio, rather than Fulton County.

If a county employee pledges not to smoke tobacco, the county will offer insurance at a lower rate.

Short said the county has also instituted a program to make Fulton County as enticing as possible for businesses and individuals to come to Fulton County, or expand their operations here.

Revenue Enhancement

In August 2007, the commissioners considered increasing the county sales tax from 6.5% to 7%.

While a measure to put the sales tax hike passed 2-1, Barnaby voted against it. Short and Genter said they would only put the increase before voters if it received unanimous approval.

Are there any plans to try a sales tax increase, or other forms of revenue enhancement?

“There are no definite plans in place at this time,” Short said.

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