Allen County Commissioner hopefuls Don Kissick (I), Connie Miller (D) and Cory Noonan (R) listen to debate moderator Jeff Fitzgerald as he explains the forum/debate rules.
LIMA — The Allen County Commissioner Candidates Forum was held at the Lima Civic Center Wednesday with candidates Cory Noonan, Connie Miller and Don Kissick fielding budget-related questions pertaining to zero-based budgeting, privatization of direct-assistance operations and aging facilities management plan.
Each candidate agrees Allen County’s budget planning and policy will require change; however, there is adversity in their approaches to balancing the budget.
“We need to roll up our sleeves and do the job Allen County people are willing us to perform,” Noonan explained, “Government should be run as a business and the time is now to change how we operate.”
Noonan believes in zero-budgeting, which is a time-consuming, line-by-line method that builds a budget from the ground up starting from zero. The question is, what is the return on investment? Does the value derived from using the analysis outweigh the cost required to implement it?
“Zero-based budgeting is too time-consuming, creates a micro-managing atmosphere and negates the hard work elected officials have put into creating current budgets,” she said.
Kissick said zero-based budgeting is useful but only on a case-by-case basis.
“Implementation of zero-based budgeting across the board is not feasible since most agencies’ staffing is limited. If implemented, this method would be abandoned in less than two years,” Kissick explained.
Another approach to solving budget problems is privatizing non-mandated state programs that are direct-assistance operations — like 911, parks and recreation and road repair — to residents of Allen County. Each candidate has a different strategy to address and analyze agency operations.
“Cutting veterans assistance and the Area Agency On Aging would be two agencies I would not want to cut but nothing is off the table,” Kissick said.
His attention would be focused on agency travel expenses and office overhead rather than eliminating services to the community. Kissick believes that finding private sources will provide a seamless transition.
“We need to set priorities in economic development by using predicted revenues to secure the communities’ prosperity,” Miller explained.
Her stance is that privatizing will be too time-consuming and not a feasible strategy.
Noonan said more accountability is necessary.
“There needs to be more effort on the front end, communicating with each level and ensuring that elected officials are carrying out their responsibilities,” Noonan responded.
He is confident that each agency should be looked at on a case-by-case basis before any budget revisions are made.
When asked to address a management plan for aging facilities infrastructure, the candidates views differed on funding and budgeting.
“The County Home, which is an eyesore in the Bath community, has water and mold damage and is in dire need of repair,” Miller declared. “The $300,000 property could be restored with part of the casino revenues the county has received.”
Noonan was leery about counting on casino funds.
“We would work with the auditor and real estate agents to inventory the properties in question, develop a plan and fund repairs with sales tax revenues, since casino revenues are inconsistent,” Noonan responded.
“As the economy recovers and revenues increase, we should continue working within a recession-level budget and use those revenues to improve the ailing facilities,” Kissick verbalized.
The forum was sponsored by AEP, Century Link, Lima Area Chamber of Commerce and Allen County. Panel members included Jeff Gunter of Your Hometown Lima Stations, David Trinko from The Lima News, Nancy Spencer from The Delphos Herald and Peggy Ehora from Dominion.