Highland County commissioners David Daniels, left, and Jeff Duncan are pictured during their Dec. 2 meeting. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
Highland County commissioners David Daniels, left, and Jeff Duncan are pictured during their Dec. 2 meeting. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
Highland County commissioners Jeff Duncan, Terry Britton and David Daniels received the county’s total estimated resources for 2021 from auditor Bill Fawley during their Wednesday, Dec. 2 meeting.

“This year, I’ve increased the estimated revenue to $11,300,000,” Fawley told commissioners. “Obviously, the biggest increase is in sales tax, but we did have some other adjustments.”

For comparison, the $11.3 million total for the General Fund is an increase over the past few years, with a $10.6 million budget approved last December for 2020, $10.3 million in 2019 and $10,150,000 in 2018.

An overview of the total estimated resources for 2021 provided by Fawley to commissioners Wednesday included the following breakdown: real estate property taxes, $2 million; permissive sales tax, $6.8 million; casino revenue, $500,000; local government funds, $400,000; fees, $800,000; and other receipts, $800,000.

Of those, Fawley said that fee collections and local government funds have decreased. The real estate property taxes “are the same, because we haven’t had a reappraisal,” the auditor said, and the casino revenues are also comparable.

“In our conversations, we’ve been talking about the $11.3 [million], so I think that’s where everybody’s fairly comfortable,” Fawley said of the county’s budget talks. “It is a conservative budget, but we always start out that way.”

As mentioned, the largest increase came from the permissive sales tax receipts. Duncan had reported at the Nov. 18 commission meeting that through October, the county’s year-to-date numbers were approximately $588,000 over the 2019 year-to-date totals.

Duncan said Wednesday that the county’s sales taxes “have been surprisingly better this year than we were anticipating back in March,” at the start of the pandemic.

“It’s phenomenal,” he said. “Apparently everyone is staying local here and buying local, and we do appreciate that.”

Fawley agreed that the sales tax totals have been “very, very good.”

“Actually, I didn’t put in as much next year, because we don’t know what next year may bring,” the auditor said. “It’s still considerably higher than where we were the current year.

“If you looked at the number we’ve received this year, you might even think the number should be higher, but under the circumstance, with COVID and all that, we don’t really know.”

Fawley said he does comparisons of previous years to come up with the total for the annual estimated resources, as he had a spreadsheet of permissive sales tax receipts dating back to 2013 at Wednesday’s meeting.

“I think that’s important to point out that we don’t want anyone to think this is going to be a revenue stream we can continue to count on to be as high as it is,” Daniels said. “As we kind of work through this, I think it’s important to recognize — if it happens two or three years in a row, that’s something you can count on. A one-year bump is nothing you can sit back on.”

Britton said that commissioners hope to complete their budget by Dec. 16.

“Now that we’ve got the firm number for you, we can go ahead and move forward with that,” he told Fawley. “We have been working on it, but we wanted to get this firm number so we can finish it up. Hopefully by Dec. 16, we should have our budget by 2021 ready to be approved.”

• • •

In other discussion:

• Britton, who was unable to attend in person due to non-COVID-19-related illness, tied into the meeting virtually through a new interactive smart board installed in the commissioners’ office meeting room.

In October, a committee to consider CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funds granted an $8,428.46 request from the commissioners’ office for a collaboration display, stand and video conferencing system, plus a Microsoft Teams subscription.

“We are operating virtually,” Daniels said. “The Legislature has allowed for numerous public meetings to take place via video conferences as a result of the COVID that’s going on. I would imagine that those are probably things that they’re going to allow to continue for a while.”

Britton thanked the commission clerks (Mary Remsing and Nicole Oberrecht) for their assistance in setting up the video conference.

“We’re glad to have the technology in place now to go ahead and meet this way,” Duncan said.

In addition to being able to meet via video conferencing, Duncan said that the County Commissioners Association of Ohio’s winter conference, set for Dec. 9-11, “is all going to be virtual.”

“We’ll be attending that, but we’ll be sitting here [at the commissioners’ office] doing it,” Duncan said. “Things have changed here within the past year from what we’re used to doing.”

• Britton said that the county is continuing to look into new software for the commissioners’ office as well as the auditor’s office and treasurer’s office. Commissioners had previously visited Adams County offices in October, as they implemented the proposed updated software three years ago.

“We’re still working with that, with that company, trying to possibly move forward with the software,” Britton said. “That would be an update for all these departments.”

Although there have been some updates since then, Fawley said in October the auditor’s office is still using some of the same software from when he took office in January 1991.

“It’s definitely in need of some help,” Britton said.

• Contractors have begun working to replace the Highland County Administration Building roof, as noted by Duncan.

• • •

In other action, commissioners approved the following resolutions, each by a 3-0 vote:

• A modification within H-00 Public Assistance Fund in the amount of $228,951.77.

• A transfer from Public Assistance to Public Children Services in the amount of $342,282.69.

• A resolution to establish a line item within S-22 entitled Transfers Out. Also requested is a modification within S-22 of $922,854.68 from Other Expenses to Transfers Out. Also requested is a transfer from S-22 to A-00 in the amount of $922,854.68.

• An additional appropriation from unanticipated revenue to S-22 Local Coronavirus Fund in the amount of $47,181.66.

• A budget modification within S-03 in the amount of $10,000.

• A request from the Sheriff for an additional appropriation from unappropriated funds in the amount of $5,085.33.

• A modification within A-00 Board of Elections in the amount of $44,625.15.

• A modification within Sheriff’s County budget in the amount of $14,000.

• A modification within the Commissioners budget in the amount of $3,000.

• A modification within the TEC budget in the amount of $1,500.

• An additional appropriation from unappropriated revenue to N-01 Capital Improvement – GIS in the amount of $14,072.20.

• A modification within the Clerk of Courts budget in the amount of $100.

Also approved unanimously were:

• A master leasing agreement contract for the Highland County Clerk of Courts office; and

• A motion authorizing the execution of a subgrant agreement amendment, PY 2020-2023, for Highland County Community Action, Area 7/Greater Ohio Workforce Board.