LIMA — It’s no secret that funding to maintain county properties is one of the greatest challenges facing the Allen County commisioners.
Candidates seeking to join the commission in 2021 spoke Monday at a Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce “meet the candidates night.” They also spoke to The Lima News on Monday about their ideas to find new revenue and stretch Allen County’s budget further.
Beth Seibert, Republican: “I’m excited that we’re at the $29 million mark (in the county’s general fund) because once the Recession hit back in 2008, it took something close to a decade to crawl back up to where we were prior to that. I’m really excited to see what kind of impact the Wayfair/Amazon tax that went into effect Sept. 1, 2019, has. We should start to see revenue here in Allen County this year. I’m excited to see how much of that sales tax through online purchases can actually be captured here in Allen County. I think until we know that, it’s hard to make decisions. I’m hoping that it’s significant enough to help assist with the infrastructure issues that need to be tackled.”
Judy Augsburger, Republican: “My focus would be on listing the assets, looking at what we have to make sure we know what we’ve got and to prioritize maintenance. That is critical, to sit down and look at everything we’ve got. I’ve looked at the budget. … I’m happy with what our previous commissioners have done. I didn’t see anything out of line; I would like to continue with the budget as it is. But if we’re looking for additional revenue sources, I would like to maybe try to think outside the box. I was thinking we could get some community ownership (naming rights or partnerships) … Bluffton does a lot of work with the Bluffton Lions.”
Greg Stolly, Republican: “Everything’s open as far as that goes. It’s going to be a discovery process for me. I’m used to working in business, not government. For me to state how or when or where I’m going to get it all, all I can tell you is I’ll explore every option for revenue, including just basically (that) we need additional sales tax revenue. That’s where the majority of the revenue comes from. … Only thing that we can do is hope for a continued great economy from President Donald Trump.”
Tim Sielschott, Republican: “As we can, divest responsibly. I think we should own as little real estate as possible. … There’s two sides to the commissionership: the keeping and tracking of the money, the Constitutional responsibilities. One of the things I’d like to add to the room is trying to sell the community.”
Dan Beck, Independent: “I think one of the largest expenditures over and above allotted money for elected officials is certainly the maintenance issues on the buildings. Each one of the elected officials has duties that they are mandated to perform by law, so funding of those elected officials is absolutely essential. There’s not much money left over to do the capital projects. It’s unfortunate that the commissioners weren’t able to sell that (sales) tax, the slight increase to the (sales) tax a couple years ago. But that is absolutely the most important project over and above the funding of elected offices.”
Norman Capps, Democrat: “Roads and bridges – that’s top priority for the county. We have to be able to move, both to go to work (and) for businesses to move their products. My number one item is to try to recapture the local government funding that was taken away eight years ago. … I’m not a pro-tax person. The only thing that I would support, probably would be another increase in gasoline tax. The commissioners did a good job, they did a local option on the license plates here about two years ago. They’re starting to see the benefit of that. Nobody wants to raise taxes, but you’ve got to pay for what you get. Economic development (too), to broaden our tax base, is a big deal. At the township level, we’ve been fairly successful in Perry Township.”
Alan Tyrrell Jr., another Republican candidate for commissioner, was absent from Monday’s Meet the Candidates night. Last week, Tyrrell told The Lima News that he would seek more funding through grants and low-interest loans to help boost the county’s budget.
The five Republican candidates seeking outgoing Commissioner Jay Begg’s seat will face off in the upcoming March 17 primary election, with early voting to start Feb. 19. Beck and Capps, meanwhile, will advance to the November ballot and compete against the winner of the GOP contest.
Allen County Commission President Cory Noonan faces reelection unopposed this fall.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.