LIMA — As Allen County faces a capital budget shortfall, Allen County Commissioners are turning to community members to hear their ideas about how to keep the county’s 19 buildings in working order.
Commissioners Jay Begg and Cory Noonan laid out the county’s current finances during a speech to the Lima Rotary Monday, and as Begg wrapped up the second half on capital budgets, he invited outside comments and suggestions to see what ideas the public can provide to solve longstanding capital issues plaguing county budgets. Begg said commissioners still face much of the same problem facing the capital budget — too many repairs and not enough revenue — as they first did when they proposed a 10-year-plan in 2018 that used a sales tax increase to pay for capital.
“(The sales tax levy) was defeated, but the need has not gone away,” Begg said.
Today, much of the county’s original plan has since been adopted into a longer timeline to ensure that necessary repairs go forward, although at a much slower pace. One technique for the county to do so is by extending lines of credit into the future, a system which helped the county pay for the recently completed Juvenile Detention Center. Begg said the county will use a new line of credit again immediately to start tackling the issues posed by an aging Allen County courthouse once JDC funds are paid in full by 2020.
Commissioners have already spent roughly $1.5 million updating the courthouse’s exterior roof and clock tower in 2016 and 2017, but many of the issues posed by the courthouse’s deteriorated fourth floor remain. Going forward, commissioners are weighing the method they wish undertake to fix the courthouse. Begg asked for public input into the situation.
“The courthouse has got a lot of issues. It’s been around since 1884, and we can’t walk away from it,” Begg said.
The courthouse, however, is just one problem among many. Engineering consultants have estimated that the county requires roughly $1.6 million a year to be invested into county properties just to maintain the buildings, and budgets are already lacking as the county uses casino dollars and debt to ensure capital needs are met.
Complicating the issue are surprise fixes. Due to the Allen County jail needing emergency repairs, Begg said half of next year’s capital budget has already been determined.
Taking the podium prior to Begg, Noonan covered the county’s operational budget.
Noonan explained how commissioners balance the budgets of 23 county agencies that operate according to the Ohio Revised Code at roughly $28 million annually. The majority of those dollars stem from the county’s sales tax with additional funding sources including charges for service and property tax.
But what the county spends its dollars on isn’t always in the county’s hands. Due to changes in governmental requirements set by the state, the county may have to increase its spending in particular areas. An example, Noonan said, is the county’s board of elections, which was required to stay open longer in certain years due to extended voting periods. Such a change, ultimately, costs the county more of its annual budget.
“Those are costs outside of our abilities. They had to be done,” Noonan said. “We have to live within our means.”
The presentation given by county commissioners can be read online at limaohio.com.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.