The sheriff’s budget is by far the biggest in the general fund at $40.6 million, an 8.8 percent increase over this year. Chief Tony Dwyer said the dispatch center has always been understaffed, so is the jail, and they need to beef up the electronic monitoring staff.
He said they know they won’t get all they asked for.
“It’s the budget we prepare early on, it’s not a definitive budget but it’s what we start with,” he said. “We’re taking into account some expansion in our electronic monitoring, and some staff with the dispatch center, I believe a couple of SROs and then part-time and full-time corrections officers, based on our population.”
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The budget submitted by Finance Director Vickie Barger noted that “Sheriff Jones will continue to seek new avenues to generate revenue for Butler County.”
2. At the end of 2020, the county’s general fund debt rolls to zero
The county commissioners approved their debt eraser plan long before this budget was even contemplated, back in 2015. The debt stood at $91.3 million in 2009 but has been refinanced and accelerated payments made since then, saving millions in interest.
Commissioners Don Dixon and T.C. Rogers says they often get asked why they adopted the plan.
Dixon said once the debt is gone, the county can consider loosening the purse strings a bit. He said holding onto debt — and paying interest — “doesn’t make any sense.”
“We’re never going back to old days where you would just borrow, and borrow and then borrow again and then hope next year that somehow they (the state) would come up with a new funding stream that’s going to save us,” Dixon said “When we get to 2020 and we have this eliminated then that gives us the ability to move forward and consider more expenditures, but they’ll be paid for as we go.”
3. Sales tax is on the rise again even after the $3 million loss a few years ago
In 2015 sales tax collections totalled $40.5 million, next year Finance Director Tawana Keels is anticipating almost $44 million.
The state and all 88 counties took a big hit in 2016 when a mandate from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ruled Ohio had unlawfully collected sales taxes on Medicaid managed care organizations. The sales tax loss has been gradual, the full $3 million impact hit this year.
What is not in the 2020 tax budget is a potential leap in sales tax now that the state has made adjustments in the tax laws to allow collection of all internet sales tax dollars. A U.S. Supreme Court decision opened the broader collection last summer. Previously people had to self-report taxes they owed on online purchases.
Because there is no way to predict collections the county left the possible windfall off the budget.
“It’s really difficult to identify now,” County Administrator Judy Boyko said. “It could be nominal or it could be something that’s quite substantial.”
4. What is the general fund?
The largest source of revenue for the general fund is sales tax, the runner up is property taxes, estimated at almost $14 million next year. The sheriff is the next biggest contributor to the general fund, bringing in about $8.5 million boarding prisoners from other jurisdictions at the jail.
Investment income has been lethargic over the past several years. Several years ago the county was earning around $11 million but it dropped to $1.4 million in 2015. Keels is cautiously estimating $5.5 million for next year.
“This is the one area I just want to air some caution, we can’t control what happens in the market.”
Local government funds from the state, casino revenue, recorder fees and property transfer taxes are some of the other revenues that fuel the general fund.
5. What makes up the rest of the $408.8 million tax budget?
The general fund makes up only a quarter of the county’s annual budget. There are individual departments that operate on their own levies and or state and federal funding or are revenue generators like water and sewer. The total proposed tax budget revenues are $628.5 million, and expenses are $408.8 million. The total unencumbered fund balance is expected to be $219.6 million at the end of next year.
Children Services, the Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services Board and the Board of Developmental Disabilities all have their own tax levies. Those entities also rely heavily on state and federal funding.