LIMA — After a week of budget hearings, Allen County currently faces a challenge in balancing county department requests that total $1.8 million higher than last year’s operating budget.
“(The budget) is always is tight, but this year is going to be a little tighter than normal because the requests are up a little bit,” Commissioner Jay Begg said.
Begg said it’s not out of the ordinary for budget requests to be higher than the final allocations, but this year, a few line items may put some stress on the others as the county has certain obligations it can’t push forward to 2020.
In one such case, union employees in the Allen County Sheriff’s Office had contracted back-to-back yearly raises of two percent, and while the office had been able to fulfill that contract in 2018, the sheriff’s office is looking to the county to help bolster its allocation to satisfy the deal.
“Those salaries will be paid,” Begg said. “The worst case scenario is we can’t find it either, so the sheriff has to cut something out of his budget if we’re not able to increase his budget.”
To do so, Begg said the sheriff could look at decreases in capital expenses, such as pushing back purchases of new cruisers, or potential layoffs if the contract were to put too much strain in 2019.
Another obligation for 2019 is a larger jail budget. If 2018 was any forewarning, the Allen County Sheriff’s Office expects a higher-than-normal population in the Allen County Jail in 2019, which would require the addition of more than $200,000 to deal with the issue.
Even with those difficulties, commissioners said they will make sure the county’s budget works. Every year, commissioners have to balance the must-haves, nice-to-haves and the want-to-haves of each department, and since incomes are expected to remain relatively flat this year, departments may have to live with more of just the necessities, Begg said.
Within the next week, the county’s budget commission will set the expected funding levels for next year’s budget, and commissioners will have a better idea of how much to dole out to who, especially after they set the number to potential salary increases for non-union employees.
As for incomes, a decrease in the Medicaid sales tax is not expected to be recouped at least partially by the state as it did in 2018. Commissioners are also unsure of the amount the county will receive through Ohio’s recently enabled online sales tax.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to work out. I think it’s important that it does get worked out. I think it’s obvious that more and more retail is being done online, and as reliant as the county can be on sales tax, it’s important to get our share,” Begg said. “ We’re going to need that more than ever.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.