County's budget lower than 2012

A final budget of more than $14.3 million approved this week by the Auglaize County commissioners reflects a 2 percent decrease from 2012, they increased employees salaries by 2 percent.

It’s the second year in a row salary line items for departments in the general revenue fund and under the the commissioners have seen a 2 percent salary increase. It is up to department heads specifically how that 2 percent increase in their salary line items is divided among their employees.

Health insurance premiums are increasing 9.1 percent with employees paying 13 percent of their total premium cost.

“Obviously, these are difficult times throughout our county and nation,” Auglaize County Commissioner Doug Spencer said. “Some people are getting no pay increases. Some are getting more than we gave. We felt 2 percent was definitely something we could afford to do.”

The 2 percent increase in salary line items accounts for a more than $70,000 increase in the county’s budget.

Across the board, Spencer said they were able to meet department’s requests with the 2013 appropriations.

“We were able to give everyone what they requested,” Spencer said. “Thankfully, we also have department heads who ask for what they need and we were able to give that.’

No increases were necessary in the county’s biggest budget, which at $4.4 million, is for the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office.

While Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon requested no additional money in 2013, because his union employees are in the third year of a negotiated contract and they are not to receive pay increases this year, there was still funding available for two new vehicles, Spencer said.

The Veteran’s Services budget is increasing by $25,000 for the purchase of a new transport van, Spencer said of another highlight of this year’s county budget.

Spencer, who is serving as the president of the commissioners through next week, said they were able to meet with this year’s budget Ohio State University’s extension office and Auglaize Soil and Water Conservation District’s (SWCD) grant requests for the first time since the economic downturn.

Approximately $190,235 was budgeted for the extension office and $158,000 for SWCD in 2013.

Commissioners also decided to bump up the Agricultural Society’s (Auglaize County Fair Board) grant from $42,750 to $45,000. The increase takes the amount back up to pre-economic downturn levels the board was receiving from the county before 2009.

Across the county’s other departments, Spencer said some supply line items are seeing increases due to high fuel prices.

Looking ahead, Spencer anticipated conducting a salary survey of county employees’ jobs in comparison to those in other counties this year. The last time such a survey was done was in 2000.

“With technology updates, through attrition, there have definitely been changes in the last 12 years,” Spencer said. “Job positions have changed. Job descriptions are out-of-date. We want to see where we should be compared to other counties. We are trying to stay current.”

Spencer said he also anticipated entering into another contract for economic development to create leads specific to Auglaize County for industries looking to expand. It’s a mission similar to one countywide that began three years ago and just concluded.

“We want to make certain residents of Auglaize County have job opportunities here and they don’t have to travel elsewhere or move away,” Spencer said.

While nothing concrete came from previous efforts, Spencer said they have felt they were beneficial and discussions continue.

With the courthouse renovation project 99.9 percent complete, Spencer said it is a relief and again was done with no debt incurred. The project, originally estimated at $8.6 million, has cost the county approximately $8.7 million.

“It’s still right where we intended to be,” Spencer said.

For 2012, the county’s sales tax revenue ended up approximately 7.5 percent higher than in 2011, equating to $7.6 million, with the county taking in $1 million more than estimated.

Spencer said the county also received $120,000 in casino revenue and $544,000 in local government funds.

“We didn’t plan on receiving any casino money for 2012, so it was just gravy that that came to us,” Spencer said.

Casino revenue to the county is expected to double in 2013, however, only $215,000 in local government funds is guaranteed.

“Two thousand and twelve was a great year for Auglaize County,” Spencer said.  “The county saw it’s best sales tax collection to date, the courthouse project is 99.9 percent complete with no debt incurred to do the project, and the grant money (for an heating, ventilation and air conditioning portion of the project) — $1.3 million — was reimbursed back to the county.”

He thanked the county’s employees, department directors and elected officials for providing the quality services they do while being conservative and cost conscious with their appropriations.

“Our elected officials, department heads and employees find ways to provide needed relief to the general revenue fund and it is greatly appreciated,” said Spencer, who on his first day in office six years ago voted on budget appropriations that were $500,000 more than those this year.

Spencer said part of that was due to positions that haven’t been filled after retirements, but also everyone has been tightening their belts as best they can.

“The passing of the 2013 appropriations is a great day,” Spencer said. “Auglaize County is solvent and we are able to continue to provide outstanding countywide services that we believe are expected by the residents of Auglaize County. It is a relief to close out 2012 in good financial standing and we are looking forward to dealing with the opportunities of 2013.”