Compairing to history

Pickaway County Commissioner Jay Wippel compares the 2019 projected revenues and expenses to those for the last 10 years.

CIRCLEVILLE — The Pickaway County Commissioners hosted the county department heads for the annual budget meeting in which the commissioners look back at the 2019 finances and look ahead to 2020 spending and revenue.

The Commissioners presented the general fund budget and each of the county’s department heads take turns explaining their budget and highlighting their requests for 2020.

“We’ve typically gotten everyone together in one room to review the financials as we see them and start to look at what next year is going to look like as well,” Commissioner Brian Stewart said.

Highlights of the Commissioner’s report included a 2020 carryover balance of approximately $8 million, $1.5 million in capital projects in 2020, and completed projects for 2019.

The Commissioners shared some of the 2019 capital projects, totaling approximately $650,000 with some of the major expenses being the window replacement project at Memorial Hall that cost $150,000; IT upgrades at the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office for about $104,000; and new voting machines at the Pickaway County Board of Elections office for $152,000.

“The biggest thing to take away here is our expenses in the past,” Commissioner Harold “Champ” Henson said of the 2017 and 2018 expenditures from the capital fund.

Henson said the Commissioners continue to plan to set aside four percent of the sales and casino tax receipts for the capital fund, following their move to do so since 2013.

In total, the Commissioners have nearly $1.6 million in potential projects to tackle in 2020 including $250,000 for the renovation to the front porch of their office, which has deteriorated and currently has a temporary fix; $500,000 for a sewer line replacement project to the Sheriff’s Office; and $394,000 to replace the airport hanger destroyed by a tornado last year.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who wants to do this project less than us,” Stewart said of the renovations to the front porch to the Commissioners office. “However, it is our wheelchair access. As we dug into it, it was bricks on top of rotting wood and there’s no option to replace it without taking it all out. We’re looking at every way to make it not $250,000. To have the ramp and porch is a big project. It’s literally falling down around us.”

Henson said the $394,000 for the airport hanger was in addition to the $350,000 insurance settlement.

The Commissioners reviewed the 2019 general fund, calling it a positive year for both expenses and revenue.

“All in all, it was very positive,” Commissioner Jay Wippel said. “As you can see, sales tax is trending higher than in 2018 after slowly declining. Expenses are tracking higher as well but we knew that was coming.”

In total, the county is projected to finish with approximately $15.7 million in revenue up from $15.1 in 2018. As part of that the county is back up to nearly $1 million in interest payments received on investments.

“We’re back into a pretty good environment and every little bit helps,” Wippel said. “We continue to spend less than we take in and we’re very proud of that. It’s getting harder to do but we’re still on that pace.”

As of Tuesday morning, Melissa Betz, Pickaway County Auditor, said the cash balance was over $9 million, something that’s unheard of.

“I remember the day when Melissa came to us and said, folks you have $600,000 in your checking account,” Wippel added. “That gets your attention real quickly.”

In addition to the revenue, the Commissioners discussed healthcare costs, which have doubled in 10 years. Pickaway County is in a consortium with Franklin County, and the county spends more than it puts in.

“Overall the program is really healthy,” Wippel continued. “If you looked back to 2009, the yearly cost was $14,088 [for a family plan] and in 2019 it was $23,617. We keep saying this is not sustainable but we make it work.”

Stewart shared the 2020 budget considerations with a projected $19.3 million in total revenues. Debt service, particularly for the fairgrounds and the Pickaway County Courthouse, and economic development were two of the major items highlighted moving ahead.

“We’re generally conservative with our revenue estimates and we’ll estimate a little bit less than we typically end up receiving,” Stewart remarked. “Generally, in most years we’ll fund most of the requests but they’ll be scaled back to stay within our revenue estimates.

“If we would fully fund every request we would deficit spend, which we’ve not done since 2012, and we’d be about $1 million behind what we have at the end of the year,” he added. “That is not the plan.”

On the topic of the fairgrounds, Stewart said the county sold $13.5 million worth of bonds to pay for the project, and combined with the debt service at the courthouse, payments will be about $860,000 per year, growing by about $600,000 altogether in debt obligations.

That will be offset by agreements with the Pickaway County Fair Board to provide a percentage of the fundraising and fair rental revenues to the county and additional property tax revenue coming to the county.

“You start out with $600,000 in new debt service obligations and offset that by the donations we’ll receive from the fair board — you backfill it with $425,000 in new real estate taxes we’ll be receiving, and it’s a net zero increase to the general fund compared to how we’ve been before,” he further noted. “Our point is that in no way is the debt for the fairgrounds in no way impacting our funding to your offices or to services of the needs of the county.”

Stewart concluded, saying overall things are looking good when it comes to the county’s budget.

“To be where we are and as comfortable as we are, we’re very pleased,” he concluded.

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