Butler County revenues remain strong with $44.6M in sales tax collected

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Butler County revenues remain strong despite the coronavirus pandemic with sales tax collections for the year reaching $44.6 million, but officials remain wary about whether the positive trend will continue.

The county received its final sales tax distribution of the year this week, and it was 3.5% higher than last year and the second highest collection of 2020. Sales tax receipts for March were $4.6 million, but reflect purchases made last December, because collections lag three months. Total collections for the year are $44.6 million compared to $44.7 million last year.

At the outset of the crisis the county commissioners and administrator projected a potential general fund revenue loss of $20 million after the economy skidded to a halt. All office holders and department heads were asked to cut 4.7% collectively from their budgets for this year and next.

The commissioners were presented with a financial wrap-up for this year and proposed 2021 budget this week.

“Fortunately we were able to weather that storm very well,” County Administrator Judi Boyko said. “We’ve talked about and I’ve profusely apologized that the projections that were done back in May were not realized.”

Officials are estimating total general fund revenues will be $5.6 million less than last year. They have projected expenses, while not all in yet, to reach $107 million against total revenues of $110.8 million. Boyko anticipates a $71.6 million carryover into next year, which would cover about 7.8 months of expenses. That does not include the $14 million budget stabilization fund balance.

Next week the commissioners are expected to approve the 2021 budget that projects $116.8 million in general fund revenues versus $107.7 million in expenses. These figures take into account one-time CARES Act revenues and expenditures.

Finance Director Angel Burton is anticipating sales tax collections to drop about 4.7% to $42.5 million. Some other revenues include $15 million in property taxes, which is close to this year, and property transfer taxes at $3.9 million. Property sales have been brisk so she believes she’ll be adjusting that figure.

Burton said revenue streams from outside the county are concerning. Casino fees are down about $1 million this year and she is estimating $3.2 million for next year. The county collected $4.6 million last year. State funding is projected at $2 million, a drop of around $700,000. She said while the county doesn’t collect income tax the state does and if Ohio’s revenues from that source are down, the county could take a hit.

“The settlements that we receive from the state like local government funds and then maybe some of our grants may be impacted,” she said.

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter said with all the money the state is spending fighting the coronavirus she predicts cuts.

“I believe they are going to look at their budget and say we should take away some funding for the counties,” Carpenter said. “I think we’re going to see a lot of that in the future and I think the commissioners are going to be stuck with those gaps. I see that coming and I predict that is how the state is going to balance their own budget, on the backs of the county.”

Boyko did include the commissioners’ 2% wage increases for their non-union employees and those in other offices. The county’s biggest expense is for personnel, around $66.7 million or 62% of the general fund budget.

Boyko told the commissioners she has communicated their message to other county officials who asked about lifting budget cuts.

“I think we can all recognize that 2020 was an unrivaled, unique year,” Boyko said adding they don’t know what “volatility” next year will bring, so she has told other county officials, “you want to remain cautious going into 2021 regardless of the ending cash balances and that you are hopeful if the economy continues to perform and residents and businesses are not affected, then you definitely want to consider budget restoration.”

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