Commissioners approve 2021 budget

BATAVIA, OH — The Board of County Commissioners on Dec. 16 approved 2021 appropriations of $67 million for the General Fund and $208 million for 114 other funds under their budgetary control.

The county plans to draw down $948,000 from reserves to cover General Fund expenses. By law, the county’s appropriation must be balanced.

Despite the pandemic, Clermont County’s sales tax revenues are estimated to increase by 4.3 percent in 2020. Taxes on sales over the internet enacted by the Ohio House in previous legislation helped fuel the increase, said Mary Rains, director of the Clermont County Office of Management and Budget.

“Developing a pre-pandemic cost reduction plan and the increased taxes from internet sales helped to not only reduce expenditures, but also allowed the retention of our county professional staff to provide the services citizens will expect in a post-pandemic Clermont County,” Commissioner David Painter said.  “We have worked hard to produce a 2021 budget will allow the county to provide our citizens with the essential services they have come to know and expect.”

The sales tax is projected to generate about half of the General Fund’s $62.1 million in anticipated revenues for 2020: an estimated $30.6 million. Sales taxes are estimated to account for about $31.4 million of the $67-million General Fund for 2021.

After the sales tax, charges for services ($9.7 million) and property taxes ($8.9 million) bring in the most revenue.

Property taxes are projected to grow 5.5 percent due to property revaluation. Licenses and permits, expected to come in flat this year, are predicted to increase 29 percent next year due to projections for Batavia developments.

Mainly because of a reduction in investment income, the total General Fund is projected at $66.8 million for 2021.

The General Fund is the largest single discretionary fund managed by the Board of County Commissioners.

“We worked long and hard to create a fair and equitable budget for 2021,” Commissioner Ed Humphrey said. “Due to the pandemic and other factors, we were forced to use more than $900,000 in reserves to balance the General Fund. We look forward to a rebound from the impact of the pandemic in 2021.”

General Fund contributions include $159,000 to the Dog and Kennel Fund to cover legal responsibilities related to dogs and $200,000 to Fleet due to reduced revenues due to the pandemic (buses parked, routes cut, less overall driving). There also are funds to cover a projected 20.5-percent increase in risk/liability insurance.

Among the 114 funds under budgetary control of The Board of County Commissioners – ranging from funds for Job and Family Services, Developmental Disabilities and Senior Services, to Environmental and Water Resources, to Transportation and Criminal Justice — the grand total of 2021 appropriations comes in at $208 million, an increase of about $2 million from 2020. The increase is covered by sources such as grants and state and federal funding. The funds will pay for everything from road and bridge projects to services for children and seniors.

Among the non-General Fund appropriations is $467,325 for animal control. This amount allows for hiring of staff and running the Clermont County Animal Shelter and $20,348 to the Auditor’s Office for processing dog and kennel licenses. The Sewer Construction Fund has a $12-million increase to cover the Water Resources Department capital plan – an ongoing effort to upgrade an aging water and sewer system.

To date, Clermont County government has received $9.9 million in federal CARES Act funds. The county has distributed about the same amount in federal funds to other local governments within Clermont County.

“A big thank you to the county’s budget team for helping us develop a solid budget in this time of uncertainty,” Commissioner Claire Corcoran said. “It took a lot of teamwork between the team, county department leaders and elected officials to produce a budget that allows us to provide a variety of important services to the citizens of Clermont County.”