WEST ALEXANDRIA — The Preble County Board of Commissioners presented the annual State of the County report on Thursday, April 19. President Chris Day reported, Preble County is in a “good place” with two years’ worth of reserves to prepare for another economic downturn.
The presentation, hosted by the Preble County Chamber of Commerce, was held at Reflections@PMG Restaurant in West Alexandria.
Day began with General Fund Revenues, which total $11,618,255. The majority of that revenue is sales tax at 50 percent and $5,826,364. Property tax makes up 22 percent ($2,601,462) of the general fund revenue, with charges for services, all other, casino tax, local government funds, and interest making up the rest.
“Basically, we’re responsible for the general fund. The general fund supports most of the offices in the courthouse, the Sheriff’s Department, and other government services you rely on every day,” Day explained. “Property tax and sales tax are our biggest sources of revenue.
“Back in 2009, when the economy went down, sales tax was one of the things that has rebounded greatly. People stay home, buy local, and support local. That trend seems to be continuing, thank goodness for us Walmart came to town when the economy went down and our sales tax continues on the rise,” Day added.
Local government funds have continued to decrease since 2011. Between 2015 and 2017, those funds have not changed much, but according to Day, there is talk of those funds being further cut.
Sale tax trends have continued to increase over the years, which Day credits to supporting local businesses. He further stated, Preble County retains 64-65 percent of sale tax dollars. Day explained, residents have to go elsewhere to buy certain goods, like formal wear, and oftentimes will buy those goods online. Thus, the county will not retain 100 percent of sale tax dollars, unless residents stop shopping elsewhere.
This, Day noted, is not unusual for rural counties.
Looking back at the pie chart of county revenues, Day noted, when the economy went down, interest income trends also went down. They are now slowly climbing. Charges for services do not make up a large portion of the revenue pie chart, he pointed out.
Moving on, he noted, before 2009, five out of six expenditures exceeded receipts. When he came into office, the county was essentially broke, he said. He actually received a phone call from commission staff a few weeks after taking office, noting they could not make payroll.
Since that downturn, Preble County has kept an eye on expenditures in comparison to their revenues. Since 2010, actual expenditures have been less than the county’s actual revenue, meaning there has been profit.
Some of those main expenditures include: Children Services placements, Indigent Defense, and other county mandated and non-mandated obligations. The office works with Children Services to keep placement costs down, but it is a statewide crisis, Day explained. They also must provide legal defense for those who cannot provide it personally.
As for obligations on the general fund, they include expenditures for Public Assistance, Children Services, the Agricultural Society, EMA, and Tax Map. Mandated obligations totaled $253,156.57 for 2017.
Non-mandated obligations include Soil and Water, the OSU Extension Office, Victim Witness, Dog and Kennel, and G.I.S. Non-mandated obligations totaled $245,087.68 for 2017.
The Preble County Commissioners continue to work with staff to make Preble County a great place to live. This includes spending money to work on various projects.
In 2017, the commissioners reported the following accomplishments:
•Completion of new Preble County Sanitary Landfill Administrative Building, Scale, Utilities and Maintenance Building Project ($1,100,556).
•New roof, windows, and paved parking lot at the Preble County Office Building ($53,750).
•New roof at Preble County Dog Warden’s Building ($31,055).
•Awarded $400,000 from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to be used toward a new addition to the Preble County Expo Building at the Preble County Fairgrounds.
•New Accounting system for Preble County ($257,135).
•Preble County entered into an agreement with the City of Eaton to consolidate dispatch services.
•Pressure washing, painting and sealant repair work on the south and east side of the Preble County Courthouse and entrance steps ($46,425).
•Repairs to concrete curb, sidewalk and drive aprons along with the paving and striping of the south parking lot on Wadsworth Street ($29,111).
•Updated HVAC and piping in the courthouse ($146,975).
•Awarded to King Environmental Group the bid for 2A/2C Cells at the Landfill ($2,671,547).
HIT Foundation Board President Mary Bullen asked, “Would you mind elaborating on what it will cost to complete [the Expo Building expansion] and where those funds are coming from?”
“Sure, the entire facility is an estimated $1.3 million facility by the engineer. We’re at about $550,000 to do the shell and get it under roof, so it is usable. The rest of the amount is still being tweaked, as we are still doing final design,” Day said. “We’ve been applying to the state, but we are seeing if we can get this done at a lesser cost then estimated.”
Bullen asked, “Are you expecting to pay any more money from your end?”
“At this point, we would hope we would not have to, but we will address that when we get to it,” Day said. “Hopefully we can hand this off to a donor who will help us pay for it.”
“This is an economic development piece. We have a lot of things that are happening in the county that we have not talked about yet. I will say, if we have to use some funding, I’m all for it. We all want to make Preble County a better place to live. We want to bring people in from the outside,” Commissioner Rodney Creech added.
On the Economic Development side, Preble County has been partnering with local businesses to find employment for residents and training for students.
•In partnership with PCDP and JobsOhio, Henny Penny hosted the first Regional Economic Development forum held in Preble County.
•PCDP funded the lodging feasibility student, which shows the County could support a 66 room hotel.
•The first Small Business Resource Rally was held in 2017, which included a diverse panel to discuss successes and obstacles — IT, manufacturing, and insurance.
•Received the Ohio ACT Workplace Success Award. PCDP was nominated as one of four semifinalists for the 2017 National ACT Workplace Success Award.
•Out of 23 new businesses in Preble County, seven came to the E.D. Office for assistance related to help with a business plan or questions related to the Revolving Loan Fund. The E.D. Office assisted one company in finding a location.
•A Manufacturing Growth Sample showed Henny Penny with 63 new jobs and $6.8 million investment; Bullen 30 new jobs and $3.5 million investment; TimkenSteel 15 new jobs and $4.2 million investment; Neaton $6.8 million investment; Silfex 109 new jobs and $5 million investment; Dow $1 million investment. Cargill announced 2018 plans for 12 new jobs and a $50 million investment.
As for Job and Family Services:
•Preble County had an average of 378 job seekers per month visit the Ohio Means Jobs resource room.
•Subsidized childcare was provided for 256 children, allowing their parents to work or complete their educational programs to become self-sufficient.
•An average of 275 individuals, the majority who are minor children, received monthly cash assistance, an average of $212 per person.
•12 individuals receiving cash assistance were required to participate in the OhioWorks First Program and participate in work activity assignments in order to receive cash assistance.
•An average of 4,285 individuals received monthly SNAP food assistance, an average of $110 per person. Of that, 44 percent were minor children, 24 percent were disabled or incapacitated adults, 15 percent were employed adults not making enough money to support their food needs, 12 percent were unemployed adults without incapacity, and 5 percent were over 60-year-old adults.
•Children Services responded to 686 complaints of abuse and/or neglect of Preble County children. In 2017, 72 children were removed from their home and placed in out of home care.
Preble County has received $45,255,300 in CDBG Allocation funds from 1982 to 2016. The funds have been used for improvements in the City of Eaton, Villages, and Townships, and for improvements for social service agencies like the Council on Aging/Senior Center, Health Department, Children’s Home, Board of Developmental Disabilities, and Northwest Fire & Ambulance.
Due to a change in funding from the State of Ohio, Preble County was not eligible for Allocation Funds for 2017. Applications for 2018 are currently at county level and are being reviewed by the Board of Commissioners.
In 2017, two Community Distress/Neighborhood Revitalization CDBG Projects were awarded. $300,000 was awarded to New Paris for East Cherry Street Improvements and $300,000 was awarded to College Corner for Eaton Street Improvements.
After the presentation, Bullen asked, “How much money do you guys have in reserves?”
Day explained, some of those dollars cannot be touched and he could not provide a number. Commissioner Rodney Creech said he believed they had $26 to $27 million dollars in reserve.
“I know it is important and all of us want to sit aside dollars for another downturn, but all of us try to fill a reserve, do any of you have type of plan on how much you should set aside and the proper use of county dollars in addition to that, that might benefit the community?” Bullen asked.
Commissioner Denise Robertson answered, “I think anybody who is running a budget and keeping money that everybody contributes to, your best plan is a conservative one. I know that $27 million sounds like a lot, but you’re talking two years of our budget. So, to hold that back and to be able to prepare for any downturn, that would be my plan. We’ve never really discussed it, a good balance or anything like that.”
“You can’t be too conservative, you never know what the future holds. I’m proud of the difference between our expenditures and income. I would like to be able to say that we are spending the right amount of money to get everything done in the county,” Creech said.
“I don’t think we should go out and find something to spend money on. I don’t think our tax payers would appreciate that. I hope our tax payers appreciate our conservative values.”
“When I see those dollars building up, to me, that is when I think we should back up on taxing people and should let families keep some of their money,” Robertson said. “I think at some point we should say that it is time to cut back on some of that.”
“I appreciate that. I think, what we would like to see, is an educated decision happen. A lot of Preble County people are hurting. When people in villages are living in poverty and are living over $100 for their water bill a month and they are only making barely enough, I think it is important to help them and keep the cost down,” Bullen said.
“I just think there are more things to do. I see a lot of people in Preble County hurting and I would like to see you investing in people.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH