By Wayne Gates
The Brown County Commissioners have paid off over half a million dollars in county debt. Two loans were paid off to Merchants National Bank, with a total payment of $547,522.81. The move pays off the loans almost four years early and will save the county approximately $40,000 in interest payments. The loans were both from 2011 and were used to pay off structural repairs to the Brown County courthouse and to purchase the building housing the Brown County Prosecuting Attorney’s office and the Probate/Juvenile court. The money came from a recent payment to Brown County of $2.6 million from the state to make up for the removal of the Medicare Managed Sales Tax. Removing the tax meant that Brown County lost $767,000 in revenue beginning this year. The money is meant to allow the county to make a smoother budget transition to having less money moving forward. Besides the loan repayment, the commissioners have used approximately $400,000 to support the Brown County Communications Center, which is also supported with sales tax revenue, and would lose funds because of the elimination of the MMST. “We are getting ready to take on a jail payment of about $350,000 a year for the next ten years, so we felt like this was the responsible thing to do,” said Commissioner Barry Woodruff. Commissioner Tony Applegate agreed. “Our primary responsibility is to be responsible stewards of taxpayer money. Making this payment now will reduce our debt load and save $40,000 over the next four years,” he said. Merchants Bank Commercial Loan Officer Brian Ernst accepted the early loan payment from the commissioners. “I just want to thank the county for their business and their continued support of Merchants Bank. We hope to be able to work with them again in the future,” Ernst said. Applegate said that he was happy that the commissioners were able to work with a local bank to get the loans. “It’s a win-win when we can work with a local business and keep our dollars in the community,” he said. Woodruff said that the move also gives the county more options in the future. “We have to position the county to be as debt-free as possible, so if a crisis does occur we will be able to have the ability to borrow money to deal with it,” he said.