Archived Story

Commissioners: Tough times ahead

Published 11:05am Friday, December 21, 2012

Budget for 2013 approved;  next year’s revenue down

 

Revenue expected to come into Lawrence County for 2013 is down almost $400,000 leaving commissioners warning that belt-tightening will be the norm.

“Times are tough,” Commission President Les Boggs said at Thursday’s meeting where the commissioners adopted a $13,911,305 budget out of certified revenue of $14,306,610.

“We will do everything we can to operate the county in a frugal manner,” Boggs said. “We had some challenges. Insurance went up by 8 percent. This budget looks pretty bleak. Live within your budget. There are no extras.”

Last year the county certified $14,704,358 for a budget of $13,181,135 that gave a carryover of $940,000. However, the actual spending was $14.5M in 2012.

This year commissioners have cut the amount of carryover to go into 2014 to $395,305.

“We have a tough year,” Commissioner Freddie Hayes said. “We have to be very conservative.”

The main way the budget cuts have been implemented for 2013 come from an across the board 23.5 percent cut in salary line items for all offices.

If individual offices need to make cuts to stay within their appropriation, they can either reduce staff salaries or cut staff, if employees work for a union-mandated wage, Commissioner Bill Pratt said.

The few increases in appropriations for next year over this year came in the jail fund that went from $325,000 to $400,000 and the 911dispatching fund. That was $455,000 in 2012 but will be $625,000 next year.

However, Lawless doesn’t see that as sufficient for running his office.

“They cut just about everywhere,” he said. “You have to lump all the money to keep the operation going. I don’t see how we will make it through. I couldn’t make it through 2012. I will be $750,000 less across the board. There will have to be some serious decisions on the operation of the sheriff’s office.”

This time the commissioners appropriated the same amount for the Lawrence County EMS — $1 million. However during 2012 $155,000 was added to that department.

Despite creating a stringent budget, Pratt said the county needs to start considering other sources of revenue besides the ones that currently make up the money available to appropriate: property tax, sales tax, local government funds and the casino funds.

For many years the state-directed local government funding provided at least 10 percent of the money coming into the county. However the state has steadily cut that stream of revenue. In 2000 LGF made up 11.4 percent of the county’s revenue while this year that figure dropped to 7.5 percent.

A possible way to offset that loss could come from the revenue from the four new casinos that have opened up in the state. Casinos must pay 33 percent tax on their gross revenues with counties getting 51 percent of that.

However two of those casinos have seen their gross revenue drop each month since opening in the spring. For the 2013 budget the auditor’s office has certified that revenue at $500,000.

One new source of revenue could come from a utility tax that the commission would impose of up to 2 percent of the consumer bills on electric, natural gas and phone.

“If the jail were not able to operate, we could create revenue within 60 days,” Pratt said. “This would only be for emergencies. It is fair amount for every resident in the county.”

With a utility tax, consumers could regulate the amount of tax they pay as they regulate their utility use, Pratt said.

Another possible revenue source would be a levy on the ballot to fund the sheriff’s office including the jail operation. Voters, not the commission, would decide if that levy would be imposed on all property owners.

“I feel like the taxpayers are certainly overburdened now,” Lawless said. “I don’t think they could absorb any more taxes. You have to weigh what your safety and protection cost these days.”

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  • Poor Richard

    I would like to know who ‘prepares’ the county budget and what their qualifications are. Not that they are doing anything wrong, but who is it? Our county commissioners certainly are not CPAs or financial wizards. Another question would be how many employees exist in each county office and how many are moving out with retirements? Lawrence County offices have always been heavily loaded with relatives and friends of local officials and I suspect they are still overflowing. I never see job postings for any of these jobs but you certainly find new faces rather frequently in the courthouse and the family names of local attorneys, local judges, former sheriffs, and other officials in nearly every office. I have absolutely no clue what the county health department does and feel that agency has severely failed the county with allowing the disgusting trash laden properties all over the county for many years and the sewer issues — I can drive to nearly every subdivision in the county and find failing on-lot systems. I have noticed that other counties in Ohio are combining services for only one area CAO office rather than one in each county and I think that more practical than funding the money pit in Ironton. Where I would not skimp is law enforcement. Lawrence County is just one Ohio county bordered by one or more other states and most of our criminal activity is coming from those other states (a good example is the heavy drug activity in Chesapeake), so they are dimenishing our budgets due to the criminal infestation coming into Ohio. The state of Ohio should fund the border counties alot more money for law enforcement to balance these out-of-state criminals, or Ohio needs to take legal action against those states to recoup those county funds used in prosecuting their citizens. County Commissioners should be setting down with our legislators and coming up with a plan to solve this problem. I would vote yes for a levy but I do understand there are people suffering with only a small amount of incoming funds. The shift to the eastern end of the county being the primary breadwinners in the county is now very noticeable. I don’t really see the educated folks from the eastern end continuing to tolerate the idiocies of western end much longer, including the nepotism. Some are already connecting the ‘who is related to who’ dots so I would not be surprised if they speak to the Ohio Ethics Commission. In summary, Lawrence county has always suffered from tough times, made tougher by the lack of abilities by elected officials, years of office abuse, hiring abuse, and millions in delinquent property taxes. I am pleased by the election of at least one commissioner, I hope the county commission office continues to improve into the future with even better elected officials.

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    • Digi

      You have hit the nail on the head in multiple areas! Good luck seeing changes because as always in this county it’s a matter of who you know. And it’s the same with the city also. I doubt you see these changes any time soon and I don’t know your age but I doubt that I see it in my life time. I can tell you one thing that the county has begun doing to raise money this year. If you did not pay your first half the year property taxes then your name went on the delinquent list and you were charged $100.00 in fees and threatened with your property’s taxes being sold in their new tax lien program. Now if being a simple six months behind causing this isn’t a load of bull I don’t know what is as most people do wait until they get their annual income taxes to pay their property taxes up a year at a time. But county citizens all got a surprise this year, at least those that do not have family working in the court house did. If you do not have ALL taxes caught up even just the first half of the year’s taxes yours will go for the up coming tax lien sale. And yes this one I know for a fact as I have several family members and friends that have had their Christmas ruined because they had to use their gift money to pay the first half year taxes instead of waiting to use tax refunds as usual to pay it. Not even an entire year behind mind you, just six months… and they are listed in the news paper as late and had that additional $100 administrative fee added on for the county’s trouble too.

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  • 1 Concerned Citizen

    What is going on here when we are spending over 10% more in a year than what we budget for. There is no excuses that could make up for wasting over a million dollars with the economy how it is. This is exactly why we need to get rid of the baggage and vote new people into office.

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