TIFFIN — Seneca County commissioners Thursday approved a $16.9 million budget for next year — the final act for two commissioners voted out of office after the controversial razing of the historic county courthouse.
Although Commissioner Dave Sauber was the only board member who voted to save the structure built in 1884, he has said he believes voters lumped all three together when it came time to cast ballots. Commissioners Ben Nutter and Jeff Wagner led the charge to demolish the courthouse despite pleas for renovation by many residents and a development group that created a plan to restore the landmark.
Mr. Sauber was defeated in the GOP primary by Holly Stacy; Mr. Nutter, a Democrat, lost to Fred Zoeller in the general election.
At Thursday’s meeting, Mr. Wagner thanked the outgoing commissioners for their eight years of service.
“I feel like I’ve learned something from both of you. I think I]’m a better person, and the county is a better county,” he said. “You’ve always done what you felt was right.”
“It’s been my honor and my pleasure,” Mr. Nutter said of his time as a commissioner. “I really have enjoyed working here and I hope in the future we continue to be proactive. I believe this a great place to live and work. That’s why I stay here.”
Mr. Sauber echoed those sentiments.
“It’s the best job I’ve ever had. It’s been enjoyable,” he said.
Commissioners unanimously approved the 2013 county budget, which technically is slightly less than the 2012 budget even though on paper, it appears to be significantly more. The 2013 budget reflects an additional $250,000 — money earmarked for improvements at the county airport that were completed this year.
“We had to claim that $250,000 additional revenue in a grant that we’re going to get for the airport,” Mr. Nutter explained. “But that money can only be spent for the airport, so there’s no impact on the general fund one way or the other.”
He told the incoming commissioners, Mr. Zoeller and Mrs. Stacy, that the present budget can be amended, if necessary. The fiscal year starts New Year’s Day.
“We felt it was important to pass a yearlong budget. It would have put us in a state of uncertainty if we passed a temporary, 30-day budget,” he said. “That just isn’t good business, and it doesn't allow us to serve the public the way we should.”
There was no discussion about whether any carryover from the 2012 budget will be earmarked for construction of a county courthouse. Earlier this year, commissioners placed $400,000 from the county’s 2011 carryover into the newly created Justice Enhancement Fund to be used specifically for the court system. The resolution stated the money can be used for new facilities, additional facilities, construction, renovation, or equipment purchases..
The board also allocated $84,000 for a one-time, 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for county employees.
“It’s been years since there has been anything done for the employees,” Mr. Sauber said. “This will not put a burden on the next board of commissioners. It’s not renewable.”
“It’s not going to go into the base salaries” added Mr. Nutter. “It’s just a one-time, 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for employees, many of whom haven’t had any sort of adjustment since, like, 2007. We’ll leave the disbursement to the individual elected officials.”
The new commissioners are to take office Jan. 1, although both were officially sworn in this week. Mrs. Stacy braved the snowstorm Wednesday to take the oath of office during a brief ceremony at the Seneca County Museum. Mr. Zoeller was sworn in Thursday afternoon at the office of Common Pleas Court Judge Steve Shuff.