By Wayne Gates –
The Brown County Commissioners approved the 2018 budget on December 13.
The county general fund topped ten million dollars, coming in at $10,660,083.
“It was a tough budget to pass and it took quite a while to work through. There were budget requests that we just couldn’t approve because we didn’t have the expected revenue to support it. Just about everything that was requested as an increase was denied,” said commissioner Tony Applegate.
He said that the amount of money requested by other county officials and departments was about two million dollars over the revenue that was expected.
That led to a four month process of hard decisions, going over the requests line by line.
“We have argued over this budget and we will probably argue about the implementation of it going forward. Money is tight and the problems are many,” said commissioner Barry Woodruff.
Applegate added, “We understand that the other elected officials have a job to do. We get that. But we are the budgetary authority and there is only so much revenue to go around. We are required by law to pass a balanced budget.”
One issue that is concerning the commissioners is being able to stay competitive with salaries in other counties for county employees.
“Our ability to treat our people fairly is being gobbled up by all the expenses involved in fighting the drug problem. It’s affecting pretty much every department in the county,” Woodruff said.
“If we are going to hire good folks and they do a good job on behalf of the county, you can’t tell them for two or three our four years in a row that they can’t have a raise.”
Woodruff said that many county employees that are not union members have not had a cost of living increase in at least five years.
As far as other pressures on the budget, Applegate does not see any relief on the horizon.
“The drug problem is not going away. The cost of labor, insurance, utilities and many other things are not going to be coming down. They will be going up.”
The commissioners do have about $600,000 in a designated budget stabilization fund, which is the recommended amount by the state of Ohio.
“That is our rainy day fund. That is not a normal operating expenses fund that we are going to be dipping into for budget requests,” Applegate said.
“We have a lot of older buildings and a lot of square footage to maintain. Just about anything could go wrong, plus we could have a tornado or something that would totally set us back, so he have to have an emergency reserve.”
Some of the larger expenses facing the county are $1,050,000 for health insurance, which is very close to ten percent of the total budget. The contribution to the Public Employee Retirement System is another $702,988.
The county also had to budget $355,670 foe the jail expansion, $85,687 for the building housing the Brown County Prosecutor’s Office and $88,656 for the repairs earlier this decade on the county courthouse.
The Commissioners expenses, which include the employee health insurance, bond payments and other county obligations, total $2,833,095.
The largest department budget outside the commissioners office is the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, which also has the most employees. The sherriff’s budget in 2018 is $2,862,775.
Criminal justice as always is the biggest expense for the county Combining the budget of the sheriff, county courts and prosecutor together totals $5,256,926, which is few dollars short of half of the county budget.
Combined with the expenses of the commissioners, that totals $8,090,021 or 76 percent of the county budget.
All other departments and services must be funded on what remains, unless they are supported by revenue from other sources.