Ashland County Commissioners March 26 2020

Ashland County Commissioners include Denny Bittle, Mike Welch and Jim Justice.   (File Photo)

ASHLAND -- The Ashland County Commissioners took a proactive step Thursday to prepare for the economic effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The commissioners unanimously authorized that 100 percent of the county's quarterly casino revenue and the two percent of the monthly sales tax revenue currently being accumulated in its capital projects fund (Fund #103) instead be deposited in the county's general fund (Fund #1) beginning April 1. 

"We're just trying to be proactive because we know our sales tax is going to take a dive," said Commissioner Mike Welch. 

The move allows more flexibility with the dollars, as the capital projects fund is a restricted fund. Once dollars are allocated to the fund, they are only to be used for capital projects and can't be moved elsewhere without a court order, Welch explained. The capital projects fund covers parking lots, sidewalks, furniture, room remodels and more. 

The funds to be redirected would account for approximately $192,000 per quarter based on what had been previously accumulated before statewide business closures.  The two percent sales tax would typically amount to $14,000 per month and the casino revenue would bring in approximately $600,000 per year -- or $150,000 per quarter. 

Now, the commissioners anticipate much less because of decreased sales. 

"It's on a different base of sales now," Welch said. 

This action comes only a few months after the commissioners approved the county’s largest ever appropriations budget -- largely in part to an increase in sales tax revenue. 

"We've already talked to elected officials about their budgets, and of course they already know this, and they've already started, so that was a pretty easy conversation," said Commissioner Denny Bittle. "They've already started being as frugal as they can be without layoffs at this point."

Some departments are allowing people to work from home. Sick leave and administrative leave have allowed some to take time off and keep their insurance coverage. 

"We're doing our best to keep up, and so far the staff and the county have been working hard and being diligent," Bittle said. "Tomorrow may change, so we take it one day at a time, and we deal with what we have today."  

In other news at Thursday's meeting: 

-- The commissioners approved the hiring of Casey Hildebrandt at the Department of Job and Family Services as a social service worker 2, a bargaining unit position within the social service unit, effective March 30. 

Hildebrandt replaces an employ that was transferred into another county position. 

-- The commissioners accepted bids from Melway Paving for the sealing of various Ashland County roads in the total amount of $781,710.80 and from Sarver Paving Company of Ashland for the highway department's 2020 construction season in the amount of $899,337.

Both were as recommended by Ashland County engineer Edward Meixner. He told commissioners he anticipates a drop in the gas tax, which was helping to fund for these projects.

In conversations with paving companies, Meixner said, he's learned they'd be willing to be flexible in accepting payments, which allows this project to move forward as intended. 

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