FREMONT The Sandusky County commissioners are asking top administrators to reduce their spending in an attempt to head off budget cuts and layoffs next year.
During a meeting last week with department heads and elected officials, commission President Brad Smith said the county has taken in less money than last year and departments will have to watch their spending through December.
We re hoping that they re in fair shape for the rest of the year and if they can conserve as much as possible. We ll have a little more to work with in terms of carryover for next year barring any big emergency, Commissioner Terry Thatcher said.
County Auditor Bill Farrell said the county, which received $16 million, had a carryover of $2.3 million last year.
But shoppers have spent less money in Sandusky County so far this year, which means less sales tax revenue.
Property sales are also down, which means less real estate conveyance fee revenue.
As a result, the county is projected to take in $15 million by the end of the year.
I think there was a little surprise we might be down as much as $1 million, Mr. Farrell said. Consumers are being more conservative on their purchases. Investment rates are down.
To make matters worse, commissioners said Summa Care, the county s health insurance carrier, has increased its rates. Commissioners are opting not to renew for now and plan to shop around.
We have the ability, to a certain extent, to either look to some other insurance company that has a better deal or increase the co-pay or increase the deductible and you end up with some sort of health insurance that s not as good as you had the year before, Mr. Thatcher said.
The county s health insurance plan expires at the end of the year.
County departments are to submit 2009 budget requests in October to be evaluated and certified by the commissioners before the new year, Mr. Thatcher said.
Probate Court Judge Brad Culbert said despite the commissioners recommendation, he plans to ask for more revenue than he did last year for his court, which he said already is operating bare bones.
It s my obligation, even though it s not going to be granted, to inform the commissioners our needs are much greater than what s currently available, he said.
Common Pleas Judge Harry Sergeant said his court s request probably will be very close to what it was last year.
We re optimistic we can come up with a budget people can live with, he said.
Mr. Thatcher said the more the county saves this year, the less it will have to cut for 2009.
But he said layoffs are a possibility.
Sandusky County s budget woes seem to contrast with other area counties, where administrators say sales tax revenues are up so far this year.
Ottawa County officials speculated that their county s increase in sales tax revenue up more than $132,000 so far over last year is, in part, because area residents are sticking closer to home for vacations this summer, making the county s Put-In-Bay a popular destination.
Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said although his county s investment revenue is down because of low interest rates, sales tax is up 8 percent and does not yet include figures from the Bass Pro Shop that opened in June.
We don t know if it s just people saying they re going to stay close to home and shop in their own backyard. We honestly don t know, he said.
Contact Chauncey Alcorn at:email@example.com or 419-724-6168.