CIRCLEVILLE — The Pickaway County Commissioners updated county officials on the status of the county budget and considerations the commissioners are making while looking ahead as a response to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Brian Stewart, Pickaway County Commissioner, spoke for the majority of the teleconference meeting and gave several updates including the county’s current confirmed cases of 33.
“A decent percentage of those are in relation to the Orient prison,” Stewart stated. “If you’ve seen the news, there have been some issues with spread in that facility.”
Stewart said the county is projecting to have lower revenue, mostly due to a lack of sales tax from closed businesses.
“Coming up with what that exact number will be is a little bit difficult,” Stewart added. “The state’s revenues were about 11 percent under expectations and March and April will be a bit worse. We want to be ahead of this at the county government level and we want to make sure we’re planning for those reductions.”
Stewart said currently, the county is estimating a $2 million shortfall compared to projected revenues in 2020 and they took action Tuesday to combat those.
“We voted to suspend the county’s capital budget in it’s entirety,” Stewart mentioned. “We hand planned to spend about $1 million in capital projects and we think it’s prudent to delay those certainly in the short term until we feel we’ve turned a corner. We had a great discussion with the sheriff and there is a large-scale maintenance project at the jail we’re putting a pause on, a repair project here at the commissioner’s office and we’ve canceled the purchase of a few new cruisers and delayed hiring a couple of positions.”
However, emergency and necessary projects will continue, such as the renovations to the façade of the Pickaway County Court House.
“We know there will be unplanned capital projects that will come up,” he stated. “We didn’t anticipate the needed repair for the court house and we’re fixing that immediately. Don’t think that if the roof of your building is leaking, that we won’t fix it, but things that can be delayed are going to be.”
In addition, the commissioners announced they would likely not give employees a raise in 2020, a future savings of about $350,000 for the entire county.
“Obviously this board has voted to approve a raise for employees every year that we’ve been together,” he said. “We want to take care of our folks, but we want to avoid steps that are going to be made in other counties that are more drastic. We wanted to be upfront about this so your folks can be prepared.”
With the measures, the commissioners have approved what they say will get them a little bit more than halfway to making up the shortfall, and there are other steps they’re looking into taking.
“In addition to this, we’ve got a few other areas where we’re going to be able to make up ground,” Stewart said.
Stewart also acknowledged that approximately $9 million in carryover that the county had from 2019 will be more commonly called the rainy day fund.
“This board has worked very hard to save money,” he added. “We’ve built up reserves in the rainy day fund. We’re not committing to any numbers, but we agree that it’s raining. There’s a consensus among the commissioners that we’ve saved money and we want to keep providing services at the level we have and keep good people. We understand that money is there and for good reason. We’ll revisit this as we go.”
Stewart concluded the meeting praising the county’s employees and department heads.
“We thank everyone for continuing to operate at a high level and doing their best in these tough circumstances,” he stated. “Every office has taken steps to protect our employees and the residents. We really appreciate that.”