The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 4, 2013

County expects lower 2013 revenues

By CARL E. FEATHER - cfeather@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON —  Commissioners want to carry over at least $2.2 million into the new year, a potentially challenging task given the latest 2013 revenue projections.

County Administrator Janet Discher met with the board Thursday to discuss the evolving financial picture. She said  it appears as if the county will end the year with $3.3 million in the general fund, however $500,000 of that money is encumbered. That leaves $2.7 million to $2.8 million as a carryover on which to operate the county until sales and real estate tax receipts flow into the coffers.

While the board would be happy to have a carryover in that range, the 2013 temporary appropriations passed last month will erode that balance if revenue projections hold true. Discher told the board that:

• The county spent $19.5 million in 2012

• The county’s revenues were $19.1 million, requiring $400,000 from the carryover;

• Revenue estimates for 2013 are only $18.8 million.

The temporary appropriations for the first quarter of 2013 are set at 25 percent of the 2012 budget. Spending at that level will consume nearly a quarter of the carryover balance.

“To operate at the same amount (as 2012), you’d have to take $700,000 of the $2.7 million just to keep the status quo,” Discher told the board.

Commissioners discussed the “basement” carryover figure for 2013 and came up with $2.2 million, which requires additional trimming or a windfall from sales tax or casino money. The county enjoyed strong sales tax receipts in 2012 and got its first infusion of state casino money as well.

Discher said a new revenue estimate and certificate of resources will be available by the end of January. While revenues historically turn out higher than forecast, commissioners prefer to take a cautious approach this early in a new year.

“I’m concerned about the unpredictability of the sales tax,” said Commissioner Joe Moroski. “We know it’s not likely to repeat last year’s performance in 2013.”

Discher pointed out that many elected officials have already implemented pay raises for their employees in the new year, and that will put pressure on the already strained carryover.

“The $2.2 million will be my absolute bottom number, and I’d prefer $2.7 million,” Moroski said. “We’ve all been here long enough to see what happens when we spend more than we take in.”

“I think we are going to have a tough financial year this year,” Moroski added. “I hope I am wrong.”