Board tentatively approves balanced budget

The Stark County Board tentatively approved a balanced budget this past Tuesday night. The budget shows $1,405,000 in both revenue and expenses, leaving neither a deficit nor surplus to the county’s bottom line.

Auditor Ron Hilton addressed the board at a finance committee meeting prior to the regular meeting, highlighting the changes from the previous year’s budget. Those changes include an 11.6% overall decrease in revenue, $101,000 of which is from a 51% decrease in sales tax. Another $77,000 is from a 45% decrease in the public safety tax, although the property tax for the general fund is expected to increase about $10,000.

The board’s directive to departments to cut 20% has resulted in an overall decrease of 8.5% in expenses, or $129,000. Salaries for the entire county decreased 13% or $136,000.

For the fiscal year that will end on Nov. 30, fiscal year 2015, the board had projected a $55,000 surplus but due to decreased sales tax the board is now projecting a $150,000 to $200,000 deficit.

“This budget is not one we are proud of, because of the fact we had to make cuts. Cuts that we didn’t like to see made,” said vice chairman Robert Mueller before the vote to approve later in the regular meeting. “We are so far behind in sales tax income… I’m just concerned this budget won’t even do what it’s supposed to right now.”

“I’m extremely concerned about the cuts the Sheriff’s Office has had to make and the security within the county,” added Mueller. “If anyone has any ideas, I think the board is open to revenue enhancement.”

The budget will now be available for public inspection for the required 15 days and then it is set for approval at a special meeting on Nov. 25 and 7:30 a.m.

In other business the board heard from Kelly Wallace-McKenna from the Henry County Humane Society in regards to a request for a proposal to house dogs at their Kewanee facility rather than maintain a Stark County facility.

Wallace-McKenna told the board that based on a 50 stray dog population the cost would be $15 per day, per dog for a total of five days.

A stipulation of the agreement would be that Stark County updates their outdated ordinances, including the cost of rabies tags. The current cost is $8.50 where Henry County charges $25, $15 of which goes to the general fund and $10 goes to a pet population fund. Agreements with the cities and villages would have to be updated as well.

The Humane Society would not provide any animal control service either.

The county board stated they will review the information.

The board also heard a presentation from Mike McIntrye, Marshall County 911 Director, and Jon Cremeens, Henry County 911 Director about the status of the new public act requiring the county to join a neighboring enhanced 911 system by 2017.

McIntrye told the board that the rules are still being formed for what can and cannot be done. Those rules are expected to be submitted by the state’s 911 committee by Dec. 22, 2015 and they will go into affect Jan. 1, 2016.

By July 1, 2016 the county must join a neighboring system and by July 1, 2017 the system must be operational. So far, both Marshall and Henry counties are the only counties entertaining the idea of allowing Stark County to join. Both have also stated that they would have to have their county board’s approval and charge for dispatching services. In addition, some costs might be involved that state grants may not cover.

Under the advice of both Cremeens and McIntrye, Chairman Coleen Magnussen will form a ad-hoc committee of public safety officials and a county board member to speak with the additional neighbor counties to determine the best option for Stark. Both directors stressed there’s a lot unknown but at the same time the county must work quickly in the coming months.

The board did approve a new $500 impound fee when a vehicle is impounded for such violations as DUI or wreckless driving. Other local communities such as Bradford and Toulon had already instituted such a fee. Of the $500, $400 would go to the general fund and $100 to the Sheriff’s Office vehicle fund.

The agenda had noted executive session for union negotiations but Magnussen informed the board she has not heard anything since the union unilaterally asked for mediation and so there was no need for executive session.

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