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Published: Saturday, 12/30/2006

Commissioners pass budget, but may ask voters for tax hike


WAUSEON - Fulton County Commissioners unanimously approved a 2007 budget with less severe cuts to conservation, extension, and the county museum than originally discussed. But they're still mulling the possibility of asking voters for a sales tax increase, perhaps in November.

Commissioners don't expect revenues to increase significantly. But expenses might. And at least one of the budget cuts the commissioners approved Thursday can't be repeated next year at this time.

That cut was to children's services. It was possible because the county received a significant reimbursement from another governmental agency for some children's services expenses the county had paid in the past. So next year, children's services can use that reimbursement money - instead of local money - for many of its expenses.

A sales tax request for the May ballot is unlikely, according to Commissioner Paul Barnaby. The filing deadline for the primary is Feb. 22 and commissioners might watch income and expenses through the first quarter or maybe even first half of the year before making a decision, he said.

But they're concerned the county is eating into its reserves. Last year, the carryover into the new year was about $2.8 million. This year's is about $2.5 million.

If that trend continues - despite reductions to some county organizations in each of the last few years - a sales tax increase may be an answer, Mr. Barnaby said.

County Administrator Vond Hall, reminding commissioners of why he was conservative in his budget proposals, talked about wanting the county to remain solvent even if the new year brings more job losses at businesses and industries, rising costs for health care and retirement plans for county employees, increasing energy costs, or new unfunded mandates from Congress or the state legislature.

"We're just not going to allow the county to go broke," Commissioner Dean Genter said.

The budget approved Thursday included:

•$35,000 less for Fulton Soil and Water Conservation District in 2007 compared to this year. That would give the district $140,000 in county funds, down from $175,000 this year. Earlier this month, Mr. Hall had recommended a $75,000 cut to the conservation district, which would have given it $100,000 in county funds.

•$25,000 less for the county's Ohio State University Extension next year compared to this year. That would give extension $244,000, down from $269,000 this year. Earlier, Mr. Hall had recommended a $60,000 cut to extension, which would have given it $209,000.

•The same funds for the Fulton County Historical Museum as this year. That would give the museum $30,000. Earlier, Mr. Hall had recommended a $10,000 cut.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:


or 419-337-7780.

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