MORROW COUNTY- Morrow County Commissioners were pleased to report that most of the departments in the county were able to have their requests fulfilled in the 2023 appropriations approved by the commissioners December 28.

Commissioner Tom Whiston said the amount available projected for the General Fund was over $14 million for 2023. The amount includes a cash carryover of $4 million and a projected revenue budget of $10,970,525.00.

Whiston told county officials at the meeting the county was in a good financial position due to several factors. Growth in several businesses was one factor along with increase in sales tax receipts and receipt of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funds.

Auditor Pat Davies called the county’s financial situation “stable.” She noted Morrow County was able to use ARPA funds for employee wages and government services since the county received less than $10 million in ARPA funds. She said this allowed the county to use the funds “without the handcuffs of earlier regulations.”

Whiston said this money also made it possible to give most, if not all county employees a raise. The ARPA funds could also be used for needed one time capital improvements and projects.

This also gave the general fund a chance to accumulate more for cash carryover and to set aside funds where long term solutions are needed such as the SoMoCo sewer project serving the area in Bennington and Peru Townships.

Davies said careful budgeting over the past eight years meant county finances could “stabilize.” The 2018 Revenue Budget shows actual county sales tax at $3,776,342.25. By 2020 actual sales tax was at $4,394,955.93. Actual sales tax to date in 2022 increased to $5,770,204.95.

Stability in the budget came as county departments along with commissioners held spending down in order to set aside money for capital improvements and other needs. It has also been a priority to increase employee wages in order to keep them in the county.

Some other needs Davies mentioned were Sheriff Department cars, roof replacement in several county buildings, roads and bridges, county fair improvements and the county park system.

Along with conservative budgeting, sales tax growth, federal and state funds made several improvements possible. The Sheriff’s department was helped with a state grant of $600,000.

Davies gave credit to commissioners for taking the time and effort to work through problems with SoMoCo sewer, electricity updates, airport improvements and technology updates for the county. It was also a boost in 2020 to have tax for online purchases go to the county. The state’s support of ”Grow your own businesses” also gave support to small business like Lubrication Specialties Inc. (LSI) and Marengo Fabricators as well as Dollar Tree Distribution.

Whiston pointed out the need for continued vigilance in keeping a conservative budget as costs of construction, labor and supplies go up with inflation alongside increase in revenues. Looking to the future, Whiston emphasized that growth is continuing in the county, a bright note being Blossom Solar, which will generate funds for the county and schools. Health and problems with opiates continues and mental health is one area likely to be funded by the state.

Commissioner Tim Abraham, who comes from a background in the construction business, said his biggest frustration is how long projects can take and how slow government is compared to private business. Abraham said he realizes it’s important to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars; however projects he hoped to get to sooner are taking longer in working with government regulations.

Abraham concluded the meeting, thanking Tom Whiston as he finishes his term as commissioner.

“Tom has been a big help with me and Tim getting through this. We thank him for his knowledge and service,” Abraham said.

General Fund for 2023 projected at $14 million

By Alberta Stojkovic

For the Sentinel