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Belmont County Commissioners Approve $22.8 Million Budget for 2022

Belmont County is going into 2022 with a solid budget and hopes for an economic upturn.

The commissioners approved the budget Wednesday, at $22,800,000. Commissioner Jerry Echemann said the amount was comparable to last year. He commended the commissioners’ staff for their work.

“They spend a great deal of time putting it together,” Echemann said. “The monetary figure has stayed the same from last year. As time goes by, everything gets more expensive.”

The sheriff’s office remains the largest expense, with Sheriff David Lucas receiving funds in the $6 million range. Echemann said last year the sheriff’s office asked for $6.7 million and received $3.4 million, then $2.5 million from CARES Act funding.

“For this year, we don’t anticipate another CARES Act,” Echemann said. “He asked for $7.1 million, and we’re giving him $6.1 million.”

Echemann added that increases to the sheriff’s budget are due to factors such as increasing costs, contractual union raises, new equipment and vehicles and the cost of housing inmates outside of the county to avoid jail overcrowding.

Many other county offices’ budgets were cut going into 2022, including the commissioners’ office.

“We try to take the lead and set the example, and we normally cut ourselves,” Echemann said, adding that cut was roughly $200,000. Echemann said he does not believe there will be staff reductions for financial reasons.

“It’s been another challenging year for various reasons,” Commissioner Josh Meyer said. The staff “probably went above and beyond more than they have ever before. .. The county’s in great shape. Another difficult year as far as the COVID situation goes.”

Commissioner J.P. Dutton added that there were other expenses such as union contract wage increases. He said increases to health insurance costs are beyond the county’s control.

“Here we sit, running at the same numbers we’ve been running at, and we just went through a pandemic without having to make major changes in county services,” he said, adding that a sound budget was vital to being able to take action when a grant or loan opportunity arises.

The commissioners added that they also hope for economic recovery.

“We run the county largely on sales tax, so the hope would be that we bring in more sales tax in 2022 than anticipated,” Echemann said.

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