WAUSEON - Officials in Fulton County are struggling to trim $1.2 million from a draft 2009 budget in order to match an anticipated revenue plunge.
Already, $1.1 million has been eliminated from department directors' original requests of $12.6 million, county Administrator Vond Hall said.
The county is anticipating about $10.3 million in revenues next year - a nearly 3 percent decrease from what's been collected so far this year.
The draft budget stands at $11.5 million. About $2.1 million is available in the county's rainy day fund, Mr. Hall said.
In an effort to bring spending in line with anticipated revenues, the county has introduced an early retirement incentive plan. The plan will allow employees with 29 or more years of experi-ence to receive one additional year toward retirement, county Commissioner Joe Short said.
"We have an obligation to the public to do our very best to provide a balanced budget," Mr. Short said. "We are continually looking at every avenue."
Those who accept the offer will not be replaced, or will be replaced by lower-paid or part-time workers.
So far, only two have taken the incentive, Mr. Short said.
If officials aren't able to balance the budget in the coming months through the incentive and other cuts, layoffs or an increase in the county's 6.5 percent sales tax are possibilities, Mr. Short said. Neither layoffs nor the sales tax increase, however, are under serious discussion right now, he said.
Mr. Short said he and the other commissioners are hopeful that the auditor's office will revise budget projections more optimistically.
In the meantime, county officials are planning to reduce the budget for children's services by $150,000, or 37.5 percent.
The budget for the county commissioners' staff has been reduced by $33,868, or about 4 percent. The county also plans to reduce the budget for insurance coverage by $136,939, thanks in large part to less costly claims over the last year, Mr. Hall said.
The county will cut its budget for contract services by $94,653.
On the other hand, the budget for the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio will increase $57,817, or about 4 percent.
"This year's process has been difficult," Mr. Hall said. "But we have been dealing with difficult budgets for several years."
County commissioners and staff will finalize the budget in early 2009.