How the presidential election will impact Butler County’s budget in 2020

The presidential election will have a big impact on the 2020 Butler County budget due to the cost to the Board of Elections, and at least one tax levy is planned.

The commissioners will hold a second round of budget hearings with a dozen office holders and department heads today. The BOE is requesting a large budget increase due to higher costs for presidential election years. The budget request is for $3.8 million, or just shy of a $1 million increase.

“In presidential election years, the board of elections staff expects higher volumes of overtime and additional temporary staff to handle the increased voter turnout in two countywide elections,” BOE Director Diane Noonan wrote in the request. “The increase from the 2016 request to the 2020 request is $281,428.”

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She said the increase is higher because of increased personnel costs, technology support and some costs associated with the voting equipment.

The BOE had a big ticket item in this year’s spending plan as well, with the purchase of a new $7.5 million voting machine system.

In addition to selecting a new president next year, voters here will also likely be asked to approve a new Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services levy, one that covers both mental health and addiction services. The 1.0-mill levy that generates about $7.4 million is expiring, and the board plans to ask voters to not let it lapse.

The MHARS board has two levies that are expressly for mental health services. When the opiate epidemic gripped the county hard several years ago, Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser determined addiction is a mental illness so the levy funds could be extended to cover addiction services.

MHRS Executive Director Scott Rasmus in his budget submission said the board will likely expand levy language to include addiction services.

“Addiction recovery services needs to be supported by local Butler County citizens. The opiate and other drug epidemic crosses all demographics of Butler County, and most likely many of us know someone that the epidemic has touched,” he wrote adding the 2020 levy language “would afford the use of those tax dollars to be flexible and address all needs under the control of our office.”

Voters won’t see a levy request from the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The board now believes it can probably stretch levy dollars out to 2025.

“What we’re seeing is an increase in property tax revenue, so even though we have continuing millage and we haven’t replaced it since 2004, because of all the new development, new housing developments, I’m assuming too timely payment of property taxes, we have just in the last two years seen a steady increase in that revenue,” Superintendent Lisa Guliano told the Journal-News.

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The DD Board has made great financial strides after facing a $3.6 million deficit in 2016, to revenues projected to reach $27.8 million, a 6 percent increase, $28 million in expenses, a 0.7 percent increase, and a projected cash balance of $33 million next year.

Officials don’t know how much the total general fund budget will be next year but the tax budget was passed at $106 million in July.

“Although the tax budget is the framework from which the commissioners are working to develop the operational budget, with more of the year expended we have a clearer picture of revenues that have been generated and expenses that have been realized,” County Administrator Judi Boyko said. “As we close out October the finance department will be in a better position to forecast end of year revenues and expenditures and from there will identify a proposed budget number to reach.”

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