The commissioners have agreed to drain the $12 million budget stabilization fund and $3 million in reserves if it becomes necessary. The other cuts were needed to make up the difference this year.
Sales tax makes up about 45 percent of the general fund revenues. Not every department relies on that main funding source, as some have their own levies or collect fees.
The general fund budget this year, prior to cutbacks, was $109 million, and the county needs to pare that down to $94 million for 2021, according to information sent to departments about budget cuts.
Prior to the pandemic, the commissioners intended to invest the estimated $10 million not needed for debt payments — the county’s general fund debt will be paid off this year — in capital improvements and to support economic development countywide. The city of Hamilton is the first recipient, with a $2.5 million contribution for infrastructure work needed at the massive Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill sports and convention complex. Dixon said that contribution will still be made.
Boyko also predicted a 10 percent drop in property tax collections, the second-highest general fund contributor.
Butler County Treasurer Nancy Nix said the second-half property tax collections generated 96.2% of the amount billed compared to 96.1% for the second half last year.
Nix tempered the positive collection news.
“Many of these payments were already escrowed with mortgage companies, and at least this billing cycle, the mortgage companies have been covering any shortfalls from their mortgage holders,” Nix said. “We attribute a big part of this high collection percentage as a result of federal government programs designed to lessen the impact to taxpayers. While we’re happy with this collection, we still feel there could be problems down the road.”
The commissioners are holding the line on the need to make cuts because there is so much uncertainty with the pandemic. After the tax budgets were submitted last month Boyko reported “nearly all” of the offices have made the necessary cuts for this year. She said only about 25 percent included reductions “close to” the commissioners’ request for 2021, another 25 percent increased their budgets and the rest have taken cuts to some degree over the two-year period.
“I personally don’t want to send the signal hey we were wrong and everything is going to be alright,” Commissioner T.C. Rogers said about going into the October budget hearings.
Dixon said there is still uncertainty about finances for the rest of this year and in 2021, but he underlined that the county won’t let services suffer if possible.
“Butler County is still in good shape and our office holders are all able to get done what they need to get done,” Dixon said. “Sure there’s a few things they’d like to do and cutting the budget has restrained a little bit, but we’ll get back there. Hopefully we’ll be wrong with our predictions and the economy.”