Butler County budget talks begin Monday

Butler County officials are about to embark on budget talks for 2014, and they say financial picture is better than it has been in years.

Budget hearings begin Monday with the commissioners and the various office holders, departments and boards. The Butler County Sheriff, who has the largest budget in the county, is first on the agenda, followed by the various courts and other departments.

County Administrator Charlie Young said officials were asked to hold spending to the same limit as this year. Last year the county was staring down a $4 million deficit, but the commissioners passed a balanced $79.2 million budget in December. The commissioners are looking for flat spending rather than cuts for 2014.

Young said as the budgets have been submitted the only one that raised a red flag for him was from the Board of Elections, but the extra $650,000 request can’t be helped. There was only one election this year in November, but next year there will also be a primary with state and county officials on the ballots.

“They got the notice that we’re trying to hold things flat, so they wanted to make sure there were no surprises to us,” he said. “They were facing a significant increase and it wasn’t something that could be controlled. It’s mandated by the state that we provide the elections and we pay for them.”

Prosecutor Mike Gmoser said he plans to ask the commissioners to increase his budget so he can give his assistant prosecutors “well deserved” raises.

“For the past two years while I was appointed, I didn’t make a lot of noise about my staff’s situation as far as salaries and what they should be paid,” he said. “I always told the commissioners, once I was elected they would see me with both barrels blazing to show why my staff is entitled to a better slice of the pie.”

Gmoser is slated to meet with commissioners during a second round of hearings is scheduled for Oct. 14.

Young said the county is on track to receive about $2.3 million more in revenues this year and the amount collected in sales tax — which accounts for 40 percent of the county’s revenues — is expected to jump to $34.2 million next year.

The extra funds will be used to pay down more of the county’s debt, Young said. The debt stood at around $90 million in 2009 but even in precarious economic times, the county has whittled that amount down to $67 million. Young said they paid off $8.5 million off this year and intend the debt to drop to $9 million by 2020.

Beefing up fund balances is also a goal when revenues exceed expenses. Young said he hopes the federal government shutdown won’t derail the plans they have for continuing to bring their financial house in order.

“We hope the trend will continue but with the federal shutdown, to the extent it impacts the economy, it will reduce our revenue stream,” he said. “Sales tax is 40 percent of our revenue, that’s a big deal, anything that impacts that even a little makes a big difference in our revenue.”