MIAMI COUNTY — The Board of Miami County Commissioners discussed the state of the county’s finances with Miami County Auditor Matt Gearhardt on Thursday, preparing for an expected, but still unknown, impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gearhardt reiterated they will not know how hard the county has been hit financially until around June when they receive the county’s sales tax collection numbers for this time period. The county also expects to take a hit from the state of Ohio’s casino tax, gas tax, and lodging tax money. Gearhardt said the state is anticipating a 20 percent reduction in revenue at the state level, which will also impact any local government funding.
Commissioner Ted Mercer said the county is preparing for a reduction in its revenue by initiating a hiring freeze, having no travel or training, and implementing no non-essential spending at this time. The commissioners are also advising department heads to watch their budgets and look for areas of excess.
Gearhardt cautioned against referring to any funds as the county’s “rainy day fund” as there is no rainy day fund, just the county’s carryover balance in the general fund. The county had a surplus of $900,000 from 2019, and a carryover balance of approximately $20 million from 2019.
Gearhardt said he found approximately $485,000 that the county was previously budgeted to spend this year that, instead, the county could monitor and potentially not spend out of the general fund. Gearhardt also suggested furloughing some of the employees who are paid out of the county’s general fund, which could save the county approximately $300,000 to $350,000. He said he was not sure if it was time to go that far yet, suggesting the county continues to proceed cautiously. Gearhardt had previously mentioned the effects of the 2008-2009 recession, where the county had a $3.9 million deficit in its general fund in 2009. He added later he felt the county is in a better position now compared to the 2008-2009 recession.
Mercer said the county still has to pay approximately $1.9 million on the courthouse plaza improvement project, and approximately $900,000 of those funds will need to be transferred out of the general fund.
The county also plans to collect real estate taxes at the same time this year in July. Miami County Treasurer Jim Stubbs said individual counties can petition the stay to extend that deadline, saying, “We see no need to do that.” He said the county has already collected 60 percent of this year’s property taxes. He added that even in the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009, the county did not see a high increase in delinquencies, saying, “Our property owners prioritize their tax payments.”