County sounds financial alarm once again

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 12, 2003

They've heard it several times before, but Lawrence County Commissioners think they need to hear it again.

Thursday, the commission urged county officeholders to curtail spending on all but the most essential expenditures. The commission enacted a moratorium on spending more than a month ago.

Commission President George Patterson said he hoped that tight fiscal maneuvering now would eliminate the need for layoffs as the county moves into the fall months and through the last quarter of the fiscal year.

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"It's not just this county, it's every county around us, too," Patterson said. "Meigs (County) is cutting people at their sheriff's office. Gallia County has been hit. We haven't had to lay anyone off, but we might have to. We need to be ultraconservative right now."

"We've just got to do what we can with what we have," Commissioner Doug Malone said.

Patterson said he was not happy with two expenditures that came across the commission's desk this week - one for

$3,600, the other for $6,300, both of which he said may not have been necessary. He declined to give specifics about what the money was spent for or what office made the expenditures.

"The thing that hurt us most is the $300,000 hit to the sales tax," Commissioner Jason Stephens said of this year's tax repayment to the state. "That really hurt us and our cash flow."

The Ironton Tribune reported in July that the county was having to pay back to the state

$300,000 in tax overpayments that were paid by Dow Chemical. When Ohio Department of Taxation officials conducted an audit and determined that Dow had overestimated and then overpaid its taxes during a four year period, state officials refunded the $300,000 to Dow, and then informed the county it had to repay all of that amount to the state this year in the form of six monthly installments of $55,000.

Malone said next year, the county will be faced with a substantial increase in workers compensation premiums and he expects the cost of health insurance to climb again as well. These increases will have to be factored into what will probably be another tight budget. Any carryover from this year to the next is necessary to make ends meet.

"From what I've seen, it's ( health insurance) going up 14 percent for another entity that has Medical Mutual," Malone said. "And with workers comp going up, its going to be hard to adapt to that."

Patterson repeated his pledge to help the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office avoid layoffs, calling the law enforcement agency a priority.