Commissioners Talk Budget In Belmont County

Belmont County commissioners had harsh words for Ohio Gov. John Kasich during Wednesday’s meeting as they reviewed local government funding.

Commissioners met with Auditor Andrew Sutak to review the projected budget for 2015. With reductions to local governments, commissioners decided to divide their portion of the incoming funds among the communities in need of funds. Sutak said the entire county can expect $1,486,000 in Local Government Funding, with the commissioners’ portion coming to $228,000.

Commissioner Mark Thomas said the commissioners hope to recoup the funds through oil and gas monies.

“What the commissioners want to do to try and help local government is that we will pass out all 100 percent of that $1.4 million so that each local government in the county will get more money next year than they got this year,” he said. “What the county is speculating is that we can make up that difference with new oil and gas monies that are coming in to where it will not affect Belmont County’s budget.”

Sutak said that several years ago, local government funds had been as high as $3 million. Commissioners leveled criticism against the Kasich administration for the reduction.

“The state’s touting an $800 million surplus.,” Thomas said. “They’re putting more on the backs of local government to do stuff, but with less money.”

Commissioner Matt Coffland added the state administration has further benefited from a later economic upswing.

“That cut to local government is why you’ve got the roads in the condition they are,” Coffland said.

Sutak said the state should allow the gas and oil producing counties to establish a percentage of the severance tax to help local governments, since the industry will have an impact on roads and bridges.

Aside from local government funds, Sutak estimated the county budget at $24 million from such sources as real estate taxes and sales taxes. Other issues to be considered included the need to build a new Western Court building that would also house the prosecutor and possibly the public defender’s office.

The commissioners may borrow funds for that and for renovations. Sutak said some casino revenue has been placed in the capital improvement fund. About $800,000 is received from that source yearly.

Additionally, Sutak said the savings on the corrections facility beginning in 2016 could free $10,000 yearly.

Thomas pointed out that there have been complications with cleaning of water wells, so it would be necessary to consider new funding sources once the cycle was complete.

Some monies refunded from the jail expansion could go toward road paving and new facilities and renovations.