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Commission accepts first draft of 2018 budget

Has focus on capital improvement issues

The first draft of the 2018 Lawrence County General Fund was accepted at the Lawrence County Commission meeting on Thursday.

The proposed first draft of the appropriations is $16,049,492.50, and county auditor Jason Stephens spoke about the budget, and what will be different about next year’s than this year’s.

“Over the last six months, Lawrence County has seen a major shift in the county general fund budget. In the summer of 2017, the state of Ohio passed a budget that impacted counties’ sales tax revenues, and the sales tax revenue collected on Medicaid services, or the MCO tax, was eliminated,” Stephens said. “However, in the fall of 2017, the voters in Lawrence County overwhelmingly approved a continuous funding source for the Lawrence County EMS in the form of a property tax levy. This levy will remove the funding of EMS from the Lawrence County General Fund in 2018 and years forward.”

He added that due to the cut in Medicaid tax revenue, the sales tax revenues to the county general fund would be cut about $1.2 million from 2017. However, with the transferring of EMS funding from the county’s general fund, there will still be enough funding for the general fund to meet the county’s needs, but not necessarily all of the wants.

Although there is an estimated general fund carryover of about 15 percent of expenses ($2.3-$2.5 million), Stephens said that next year’s general fund budget would be friendlier to facilities and maintenance issues within the county buildings and departments, as major repairs have been deferred for quite some time.

In order to deal with those needs, the general fund also contains a Capital Improvement Budget, which will be financed by 65 percent of the county’s casino receipts in the first year. All one-time revenues will also be placed into the Capital Improvement Budget to provide an ongoing revenue stream to county facility repairs and improvements.

Commission President Bill Pratt said that the Capital Improvement Budget also is a way for the county to be more forward-thinking in having funds available for those purposes rather than in year’s past where those types of issues were more on the back burner.

“This budget has been prepared with a new focus. That focus being a vision for the future,” Commissioner DeAnna Holliday said. “We’re faced with needs, more often than not, with buildings or vehicles or other big ticket items that we’re often scrambling to find the funds to take care of. This type of planning allows us to be more responsible and takes us into a situation where we can be more progressive and have more opportunities to Lawrence County as well.”

Pratt and Stephens also said that having a general fund draft prepared early is very helpful, in that any issues with it can be taken care of relatively quickly. Pratt added that the commission hopes to work out any issues with the budget at its meeting next Tuesday, and hopefully have it passed at its Thursday meeting.

In other action, the commission:

• Approved and signed the Ohio Drug Law Enforcement Application 2016 Grant Program Subgrant, as requested by the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office.

• Approved one appropriation.

• Tabled two measures; to receive and file the approval of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Slum and Blight Waiver for projects totaling $154,800, and to approve and sign the grant agreement B-F-17-1BN-1, as requested by Cindy Anderson, Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization (CAO), until they can further talk to Anderson.

There will be two commission meetings next week. The first will be 11 a.m. Tuesday and the second 11 a.m. Thursday in the commission chambers on the third floor of the courthouse.