ASHLAND -- It’s been at least a decade since Ashland County commissioners saw a proposed budget with such a significant difference between anticipated revenues and expenditures, according to Auditor Cindy Funk.
On Thursday morning, commissioners reviewed the proposed 2021 budget and approved it for now, acknowledging the $4.1 million difference between projected revenues and expenditures must be addressed later this year.
Commissioners said they hope better data will be available to inform their decisions then.
The proposed budget anticipates nearly $11.5 million in revenue, but requests have come in from county departments for about $15.6 million in expenditures.
“It’s common to see a difference... but not one this large,” Funk said.
Already in the proposed 2021 budget, predicted sales tax income is slashed by 20 percent compared to what the county brought in during 2019. Cuts were also made to other anticipated income streams, including state funding and locally collected fees.
In June 2020, sales tax collected in Ashland County was down by 16.4 percent.
The county’s carryover balance from 2020 to 2021 will also impact how significantly the commissioners need to tighten the belt. The currently proposed 2021 budget includes a projected carryover balance of $1.8 million, which could mean the county would only need to cut $2.3 million to balance its budget.
“You have expenses totaling -- or requests totaling $15.6 million, which is even higher than this year -- and with the revenue, we’re not going to be able to give them what they want, what they requested,” Funk said. “What it comes down to is what our carryover balance will be at the end of the year.”
Commissioner Mike Welch highlighted just how significant this is, pointing to numbers from 2010 and 2011.
“Looking back on the 2010 budget, we had projected a deficit of $1.277 million, and that was coming off of very bad years, and in 2011 we showed $1.153 million (in deficit), so this is even almost double that,” he said.
The commissioners were able to pass their largest budget ever for 2020, but “only because of carryover,” Welch said. The county carried over about $4.5 million from 2019.
The budget remains higher than in recent years, but has since then, it has been adjusted down by about $1 million. The county’s budget now reflects an anticipated $15.4 million in expenditures and $12.7 million in revenue -- with the carryover of $4.5 million covering the difference.
Assuming revenue doesn’t drop further, the county would be able to cover costs.
“We’re living off that, relying on that carryover,” Funk said about the 2020 budget.
She continued to speak on it’s impact for 2021.
“But if revenue decreases, it determines our carryover for 2021. We anticipate $1.8 million (in carryover) but it could only be $1.5,” Funk said.
She noted other potential funds could come from the county’s capital expenditure fund, which currently has a balance of $2.5 million. And in the past, she said, the commissioners have sold buildings to bring in additional revenue.
Welch said the county has received $769,388 from the federal CARES Act for COVID-19 relief. It’s a “bright spot,” he said, but the funds are limited in how they can be spent.
“Those have to be totally pandemic, epidemic related. In other words if the costs aren’t related to that, we can’t spend the dollars on that,” Welch said.
Commissioner Jim Justice said, "They can’t be part of something we’ve already budgeted for, so there’s no backfilling the budget with this money."