As 2021 approaches, Allen County’s budget for the new year comes with both good and bad news.
The good news?
Allen County commissioners expect that the county’s general fund budget — which is largely paid by sales tax — will remain similar to last year’s budget.
The bad news?
The county’s capital budget will be even more stressed than before.
Back in March, the county estimated a 10% drop in revenue due to the economic complications brought by the coronavirus pandemic, but Allen County Commissioner Cory Noonan said that the county has been able to keep its head above water despite the economic challenges.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” Noonan said. “The team stepped up, and we were able to fulfill those projected holes.”
Exact numbers for the 2021 budget are still unavailable as commissioners are early in the budget process, but if it is able to align with last year’s budget, the county’s 2021 general fund budget would be near $29.2 million.
What’s going to happen with the capital budget is anyone’s bet.
In a normal year, the county receives roughly $300,000 a quarter in casino dollars in order to pay for all the building repairs and improvements necessary to keep the county working smoothly. In the second quarter of 2020, casino taxes provided only $20,000 to the county.
After casinos opened up due to the state’s loosened restrictions, casino dollars did see an uptick, but it’s still not near the $300,000 expected in a normal quarter. For a county that is already dealing with the need for extensive repairs at a number of facilities, the lack of dollars in 2020 leading into 2021 could be an issue.
“It’s going to be a challenge this year. It’s going to be a challenge with that source of dollars,” Noonan said.
As for the larger capital projects expected in 2021, details are still sparse, but Allen County Commissioner Beth Seibert said some of the higher priority items are the two elevators at the Allen County Jail, which have been malfunctioning. She said just recently, someone got stuck in one of the elevators for 35 minutes.
Unrelated to capital budgets, the county will also still have coronavirus expenses to take care for at least a portion of 2021. With CARES Act dollar needed to be spent by January, that leaves at least a few months next year that the county will need to foot the bill – unless federal aid comes down the line.
As for now, the county will be working through its budget within the next few months in order for it to be ready to be passed in January. Commissioners have just started meeting with other county elected officials to get a better idea of each department’s needs and prioritizing the county’s largest capital needs.
“Five weeks left in the year, we’ve been able to weather a pretty bad storm,” Noonan said. “We have one foot in 2021, and our focus is to be ready and have a budget very similar to last year’s.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.