With operating revenues declining for two years in a row, the Clermont County Board of Commissioners took a hard look at how to balance the budget and made the decision Monday, Nov. 23 to cut $4.5 million from the general fund budget.
According to board of commissioners President Ed Humphrey, the largest pieces of the operating expense pie are the criminal justice department and the general government. With a forecast of operating revenues continuing to drop in 2010, the commissioners have had to find ways to cut the budget again.
“To maintain a fiscally responsible general fund balance in light of declining revenues, we have to limit our operating expenditures,” said Humphrey.
As a result of the cuts, the sheriff's office will be closing a 40-bed pod at the jail and five corrections officers will be laid off.
The general government, which consists of mostly elected officials in county government, will not see any pay increases in 2010 and although furloughs were discussed as a way to save money, they will not be mandated at least for the first six months of the year.
"We will be using some of the reserves to retain three patrol officers for the sheriff's department. Without using those funds, there would be layoffs," said Humphrey. "We will be paying for furloughs for government officials out of the reserve fund for the first half of the year and if things are worse than anticipated, we will be looking at mandatory furloughs later in the year."
Humphrey noted that there were other areas that will also feel the cuts. The OSU Extension office will have to operate on $175,326 next year, a drop from $216,893 in 2009.
"We have told OSU Extension that our top priorities are for 4-H and agricultural programs," said Humphrey.
Commissioners are hopeful that the economy will turn around and cuts can be restored but in the meantime, they are spending $1.5 million of the reserve funds to help balance the 2010 budget.
Humphrey also expressed concern that upcoming levies for several special funds could change the outlook of future budgets. He noted that if their levies failed, the general fund could take a hit by having to provide mandated services such as services for those with developmental disabilities, mental health issues and senior services.
"We will have to evaluate those services on an on-going basis," said Humphrey.
He also noted that the uncertainty of health insurance is a variable to consider in the future budget.