After a battle that lasted several months, the Fulton County Commissioners have a general fund budget for 2009 that balances.
Not long ago, the commissioners were looking at waiting well into the New Year to approve a 2009 general fund budget. Last week, Vond Hall, county administrator, said the commissioners should adopt the 2009 budget soon after the first of the year.
The 2009 budget estimates the county will spend about $11,477,791.84 from the general fund for 2009. That’s down about 6%, or $732,445.10, from the 2008 budget.
Where were some of the major cuts?
Hall said, “A nice thing was this year, our health insurance experience was good, so our renewal showed a reduction of about $200,000,” he said.
Another area that was reduced was the budget item for children in custody.
“We don’t know how many children we will have in custody, and we don’t know how many will be eligible for federal reimbursement. That could be several hundred thousand dollars. So we reduced that appropriation,” he said.
The 2009 budget has also benefited from a reduction in county salaries.
“When folks retire, we are not filling those positions, or (are) filling them with part-time employees, so we’re reducing that cost,” Hall said.
To encourage eligible county employees to retire, the county is offering a retirement incentive; that program was created late this year.
Originally, revenue for the 2009 general fund was estimated at about $9.9 million.
The estimate is prepared by the county budget commission, composed of Nancy Yackee, auditor; Beverly Schlosser, treasurer; and Roger Nagel, county prosecutor.
Hall said the commission always prepares a conservative estimate for general fund revenues, but its original 2009 estimate was low.
Hall said the figure has been reexamined and readjusted, up to $10.3 million.
One positive aspect for the budget has been the county sales tax, which ended 2008 by generating $4,212,546.
That’s $188,992.65, or about 4.7%, more than the 2007 total, which was $4,023,845.92.
A sales taxes increase, at a time when the economy is sagging?
Hall said the increase might be attributed to higher fuel prices, as people do their shopping and make their purchases closer to home rather than traveling to Toledo, Defiance, or other cities.
A big concern for Hall and the county commissioners is the condition of the State of Ohio’s finances.
On Friday, Dec. 19, Ted Strickland, Ohio governor, ordered $640 million cut from the state government budget.
So far, a total of $1.9 billion has been trimmed from Ohio’s current biennial budget, which started July 1, 2007 and ends June 30, 2009.
Strickland’s Friday order calls for a 5.75% across-the-board cut to state agency spending. Some programs, such as school funding, were immune from the latest cuts.
Hall said as the state revises its budget numbers, he doesn’t know if that will mean the state will pass more and more expenses down to the local level, or if revenue from the state will be reduced.
For example, Hall said Fulton County receives about $1 million from the state through the general revenue fund.
If the state eliminates general revenue fund payments, that means $1 million gone from $10.3 million in revenue- a cut of almost 10%.
“We’ve got this gray cloud hanging over our head,” Hall said, referring to the state budget situation.- David Pugh