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Reserves still part of county budget plans

11/28/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Summit County’s financial picture continues to brighten, but officials believe the use of reserves to balance the budget is a reality for at least the next two years.

Summit County Council heard the monthly update on the county’s finances from Brian Nelsen, director of Finance and Budget, during the Nov. 25 meeting.

Among the highlights are the county’s sales tax collections, which are up 4.71 percent over last year. This is the fourth year in a row for growth in sales tax numbers, he said.

Also, revenue from property transfer taxes is up 13.84 percent from a year ago.

He added that local government funding from the state continues to be a challenge. In addition, the real estate market did show improvement this year, but he noted that it has slowed down since summer.

Nelsen said when the year concludes, he projects revenues will be $100.3 million and expenses will be $100.9 million, meaning the county will need to use about $600,000 in reserves, which is less than he had originally projected for the year.

Looking ahead, Nelsen said next year he is projecting an increase in the amount of reserves needed due to health care increases and employee raises. In 2015, a 27th pay period also will mean the county will have to rely on reserves.

During the meeting that followed, Council adopted the 2014 full operating budgets for the Children Services Board; the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board; and Developmental Disabilities Board, which are the county’s levy-funded agencies.

In addition, Council adopted on first reading a resolution regarding the county’s natural gas aggregation program. Buckeye Energy Brokers conducted a request for proposals for the program and found the best rate is from Constellation Energy.

Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry, said the county plans to move forward on a 20-month contract with a fixed price of around $4.17 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf). The county’s current rate is $5.393/Mcf with Direct Energy, which chose not to submit a bid.

The communities of Bath, Boston, Copley, Coventry, New Franklin, Richfield and Springfield participate in the program, according to the legislation.

During budget hearings earlier in the evening, Council heard from Summit County Clerk of Courts Daniel Horrigan, who talked about the office’s work toward being more customer-service oriented.

Horrigan noted that the office would like to open another title bureau on the west side of the Akron area. He noted that the Green office is very successful and draws people from Stark County.

Also during the meeting, Council adopted:

  • a resolution confirming an award of a five-year contract for legal advertising of sheriff’s sales and foreclosures with the Akron Legal News, with two five-year options to renew, by a vote of 10-1, with Councilman Frank Comunale (D-District 4) voting no;
  • a resolution declaring Nov. 30 as Small Business Saturday in Summit County, and encouraging citizens to support local small businesses for their holiday shopping; and
  • a motion to cancel the Dec. 9 regular meeting and reschedule it for Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. due to the swearing in of Councilman Nick Kostandaras (D-District 1) as president of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio. The meeting is the final one for the year.

County Council will meet for committee meetings Dec. 2 at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St.

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