|Van Wert County financial situation is improving|
|Sunday, July 14, 2013 11:52 PM|
BY ED GEBERT
VAN WERT - County revenues are up during the first six months of 2013, according to Van Wert County Auditor Nancy Dixon.
“Most of the increase was the permissive sales tax (collections) staying up for us,” Dixon explained. “We have only had one month where it didn’t go up. If that hadn’t gone up like it did, we’d probably be about the same as the first six months of 2012.”
With the increases, county revenue in the first half of 2013 is $210,808 higher than in the first half of 2012. Some expected revenue from the opening of the state’s four casinos is a little less than projected, but still added over $146,000 to the county coffers. The county projection for the year is $380,000.
Money from the Blue Creek Wind Farm is not due to kick in until January of 2014. The Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program kicks in during the first complete year the wind farm is generating electricity. Since the facility was not generating power on Jan. 1, 2012, the PILOT payments are effective starting Jan. 1, 2013. Collections for the year 2013 begins this coming January. Dixon projects Blue Creek to pay in nearly $300,000 in 2014 to the county’s general fund alone. The total amount of payments comes just over $2,000,000 which is spread between the county, Brumback Library, Thomas Edison School, COA, OSU Extension, Tri-County Services, various townships and school districts across the county.
In addition, the county received a rebate on Workers Comp premiums of $69,000, which is a one-time payment passed in the state’s biennial budget. Money received in the electric aggregation deal came to just over $54,000 but still needs to be shared with the participating townships, villages and cities.
On the other side of the ledger, expenditures are up just a little — $75,000 — over the first half of 2012.
“We don’t have any danger signs for the rest of this year,” Dixon shared. She noted that the budget would be in very good shape if not for the repayment of a 2009 grant which has been ordered by the state. That judgment of $365,000 was declared due to some late paperwork being turned in as part of a grant that helped pay for the sewer and water project for homes on U.S. 127 and St. Rd. 118 four years ago. The Van Wert County Commissioners have been attempting to obtain a waiver for the penalty but multiple sources have struck out trying to receive a waiver. County Commissioner Thad Lichtensteiger reported on Thursday that the commissioners had to sign a repayment plan with the state but are moving forward with a plan to file suit against the county’s risk insurance carrier to pay a claim on the judgment.
Factoring in the grant repayment, the budget is nearly $150,000 in the red. Without that judgment, the budget would be in the black almost the same amount. The commissioners are trying to save a little more money on employee health insurance, also. The current plan for Van Wert County is much costlier than most counties have to pay.
Overall, the county’s financial picture has improved greatly over the past five years. It had been commonplace for the initial budget to come in with a lot of red ink, which had to be removed through severe budget cuts. For around 18 months, county employees even cooperated with a voluntary furlough program which reduced employee hours by one day out of every two weeks. Those cuts are now not as drastic as they once were and employee no longer have a furlough program.