GALLIPOLIS — Despite the major budget constraints of 2012, management of funds and cooperation among elected officials has allowed the establishment of a “comfortable” carryover balance within Gallia County’s general fund budget, according to the Gallia County Commissioners.
During their final meeting of 2012, the board of commissioners approved the 2013 annual appropriation resolution — a budget that will allot a total of $8,157,392.85 to all of the county departments throughout the 2013 calendar year.
According to Gallia County Administrator Karen Sprague, the auditor’s office has estimated $8.2 million in total revenue for the county departments this year, and the 2013 budget will operate within that.
The $8.157 million 2013 budget is much improved from the lean $7.854 million 2012 budget that included 14-percent across-the-board budget reductions for all county departments, and, according to Commission President Harold Montgomery, with oversight and good management in 2012, a carryover balance has been established that spells a certain level of “comfort” within the county budget.
“Due to the state cutbacks, it put the 2012 budget in a tremendous strain, and we needed to establish a carryover,” Montgomery said. “So, with the oversight, consolidation of some of the functions and reduced spending, we were able to establish a carryover balance of about $625,000 at the end of 2012 which gives us a comfort level now of having the carryover.”
According to Montgomery, the state auditors recommend that each county general fund establish a “carryover” balance — or funds “left over” at the end of the year after all appropriations have been approved — equal to two months of the the total operating budget within the county.
In Gallia County, that number equates to $1.2 million, according to Montgomery.
At the end of 2012, the county’s carryover balance will be approximately $625,000, according to the commission, a figure up from the carryover from 2011 which totaled approximately $321,000.
The establishment of this carryover equated to the reduction of spending in 2012, according to Sprague — a practice that, in turn, equated to the 2012 budget reductions for all the county’s departments
“The only way to build up carryover is to reduce appropriations, because if you are spending above what you’re bringing in for the year, you’re eating into your carryover,” Sprague said. “It’s like a savings account.”
This county “savings account” also requires constant oversight and, while the 2013 budget is improved from the 2012 budget, Sprague reported that vigilance over the budget will be required as the new year proceeds.
“It’s a constant watching process. You have to watch it the whole year to see where you’re at, how it’s going and make sure everything’s still coming in the way we think it’s going to,” Sprague said.
Montgomery concurred and reported that, now that a carryover has been established, the commission will also continue to improve upon that carryover figure in the coming years.
“We have a carryover at this point, it’s not what we need, but it is something that we are comfortable with,” he said. “Over the next couple years, we will continue to grow that carryover to get it to the number that the state auditors suggest.”
In addition to the carryover funds, the county will also receive an increased amount of funding from the casino revenue tax in 2013.
In 2012, Gallia County received $80,991.47 in casino monies from the three casinos currently in operation in Ohio’s larger cities.
In 2013, this number is projected to increase to approximately $425,000 in Gallia County, according to Montgomery, and, while the county will lose approximately $200,000 in revenue through the reduction of interest income in 2013, the casino funding will still allow for the addition of approximately $225,000 in funds this coming year.
“With all that balancing out, we’re still going to be at a plus in some of our funding for this year,” Montgomery said.
With the establishment of the $625,000 carryover balance, the increase in casino monies and increase in revenue from sales tax, the 2013 budget allows for some restoration of funds for the departments hard hit by budget reductions in 2012.
According to Sprague, the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office will receive a total of $2,231,410.16 for their operation in 2013 — a figure that is much improved from the total funding appropriated to that department in 2012.
“That is the biggest appropriation to them ever,” Sprague said. “It exceeds [the years] ‘11, ‘10, ‘09, ‘08, and, back before that, it was even less. It’s a little over $225,000 over what they got this year.”
The Gallia County Engineer’s Tax Map Department will also be positively affected by the 2013 budget. The department, that is required to operate under general fund monies, will again be open five days a week in 2013. The department that was cut due to budget reductions in 2012 had been operating only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“Due to good management of funds this year, we’re able to restore the mapping department with enough budgeted to operate all five days of the week,” Sprague said.
Additionally, the commission recently approved a 50-cent raise for all non-union county employees.
The raise will cost approximately $76,000 annually, according to Montgomery, and excludes those bargaining employees of the sheriff’s office, Gallia County Department of Job and Family Services, Gallia County 911 Center, and Gallia County Emergency Management Services.
Montgomery reported that raises among those union employees will be dealt with through their respective union contracts.
“Non-bargaining units have not received a raise over the past two or three years. The bargaining units have received raises in 2010, 2011, 2012. Even though with our tight budgeting constraints, they still contractually got their raises,” Montgomery said.
The changes to the 2013 budget from the 2012 budget were due to, in large part, the cooperation between the county’s department heads and the commission this past year, according to Montgomery.
“It’s been through the cooperation of all of our elected officials and being very diligent with their spending that we’ve been able to achieve this,” he commented.
The commission president further reported that, with the budget crisis of 2012 and the reduction of spending among the county departments, he cannot foresee any major budgetary crisis in the next few years.
“The state has balanced their budget on the backs of local governments and, as a result, we have cut back and consolidated departments and leaned out our budget and so we are basically standing on our own right now,” Montgomery said. “In 2014, looking that far ahead, I don’t see anything that would have a very negative impact.”