Minimal Budget Changes Expected in Belmont County

Belmont County Auditor Roger Conroy has given commissioners a financial forecast for 2019.

During their regular meeting Wednesday, Conroy gave them a heads-up about what to expect during budget hearings this year. The final certification and those hearings with various department heads are still to come.

Commissioner Josh Meyer was absent from the meeting because he had another appointment.

Conroy said the 2019 county budget is shaping up much like the one this year.

“Our estimates are that we will be pretty consistent,” he said. “The budget that we had last year and the year before that we stuck with, that’s probably going to be about the same for the following year, and that runs about $25 million.”

He said revenues are expected to be about $24,607,000, with expenditures about $500,000 less, leaving a carryover of about a half-million into 2019.

“That’s something that’s pretty consistent for the last couple of years,” Conroy said.

“We’re going to have a starting point where we were from 2016 and 2017,” said commissioner Mark Thomas. “As far as we will not intentionally create or increase the budget, we’re going to stay the course of where we are with very conservative estimated revenues and deal with it accordingly as the year goes on.”

“We’re in a much better position in that regard than we were four to five years ago,” said Commissioner J.P. Dutton.

Conroy said the sales tax is expected to remain about $10 million, similar to this year. He also addressed a recent influx of $173,000 in conveyance fees, saying he is not yet able to certify the funds for any purpose because the amount has not exceeded the year’s projected limit of $300,000.

He said $600,000, chiefly from casino tax and gas and oil revenue, will be certified Thursday. Thomas said the commissioners have generally used those funds for capital improvements.

Conroy also said property taxes will increase after the ongoing re-appraisal. He said the re-appraisal generally results in an increase of 10 percent to 15 percent. He also said his office will be open for hearings with citizens to review their increases.

The commissioners also will receive $266,000 for the county’s share in local government funding. For the past four years, the commissioners have diverted that share to the county’s subdivisions for about $3,400 each. Thomas said the commissioners have not made a decision regarding 2019, but said he was in favor of continuing to forgo the funding in the interest of assisting local governments. The decision must be made by October.

He said the total anticipated local government funding for 2019 is $1,726,000, an increase of about $70,000 from this year, but $1,700 less than five years ago.

Conroy also said communities are feeling strained. In November, Belmont County voters will see 16 levies on the ballot, although none are county-wide.

He said the county has maintained the budget for the past three years despite problem areas, such as issues of overcrowding at the jail.

“It’s imperative for all of our elected officials and department heads to understand where we are financially and that there are no magical funds out there,” said Thomas. “Everybody needs to be very wary and cautious of their budget.”