County officials consider financial adjustments due to coronavirus crisis

By Alberta Stojkovic - The Sentinel

MOUNT GILEAD — Morrow County Commissioners, Auditor and Engineer are projecting a loss of county revenue for at least a quarter due to the stay-at-home order for Ohio. They predict that every department will need to look at some cuts with plans for road work and the hospital levy also on hold.

At the commissioners April 1 meeting, Commissioner Tom Whiston reported that the county’s budget commission decided to “decertify” $200,000 of the budget immediately due to the projected loss of casino revenue from the state.

County Auditor Pat Davies said she and the budget commission, which is made up of the county treasurer, auditor and prosecutor, are trying to estimate how the coronavirus crisis will impact the revenue streams in the county.

Davies noted that the state is looking at possible 20 percent cuts across the board and they are urging counties to look carefully at their budgets and appropriations.

The county’s general fund covers much of the county’s operations and business. About 40 percent comes from sales tax, 28 percent from property tax, 12 percent is from fees, fines and interest, 12-15 percent is intergovernmental such as state and grants, and the remainder is from miscellaneous such as rents.

With people buying groceries and other essentials within the county, Davies is cautiously optimistic that the 40 percent budgeted from sales tax will not be down too drastically.

Davies added that she and the budget commission have been very conservative in setting appropriations and the budget this year. They believe that will save the county some hardship.

“There is no fluff in the budget,” Davis said. She hopes this will mean they can make smaller cuts than the 20 percent the state is projecting.

County road work is another concern that county officials will look at over the next few weeks. The revenue for roads comes mainly from the gas tax and road levy tax.

Davies said that the gas tax will be lower with people driving less with the Stay at Home order. There will also be a loss in revenue for the roads because the BMV is closed and people are not purchasing cars and needing licenses.

Road work

County Engineer Bart Dennison is faced with how to cover the $2million needed for the plans to pave and chip and seal the county’s roads.

Dennison said he will be cutting the county budget for roads by 30 percent. Even though it is projected that there will be a 20-25 percent loss in revenue, he must be able to pay for the work as it is contracted and completed.

He said the work has already been planned and bid out. The bids that came in were good and low. The contract paving with Kokosing and Mid-Ohio will be cut by 20-25 percent. Some places they planned to pave will have spot paving or chip and seal.

“This was going to be a really big year for getting the roads done,” Dennison said. “We are really affected by the gas tax with people driving less.”

Hospital levy

At its Wednesday meeting, Commissioners also voted to table the Morrow County Hospital’s request for a 2.5 mill renewal levy on the fall 2020 ballot. The request is tabled until May 11 so the county will have more time to work on the budget.

Commissioners said it has not received the financial information from the hospital that was requested for the past two quarters. Whiston said they request this on every county levy that is put on the ballot.

Davies said all the county officials realize the difficult circumstances they are in and they are working together in this trying time.

By Alberta Stojkovic

The Sentinel