Clark County approves $159M budget

Clark County commissioners unanimously approved Wednesday a $159 million budget for this year that includes pay increases for employees, thousands annually for economic development projects and a last minute boost in funding for the Dayton Development Coalition.

Administrator Nathan Kennedy presented commissioners with the overall budget, which is down from $163.2 million the previous year. Included is a $44 million general fund budget, which is up nearly 7 percent over last year.

“One of the big changes is that we have quite a bit of money set aside to be pushed to the rainy day fund for economic development as well as complying with our existing budgetary policies to put money in the rainy day fund for emergencies so we’re getting close to digging ourselves completely out of the old recession. Now we’re actually putting away money for growth for the community,” Kennedy said.

The overall budget is smaller than last year because projects such as the expansion of the sewer plant and Lower Valley Pike were in the 2015 budget.

The county saw an increase in the general fund because it put more its reserves, Kennedy said, because a recently extended half percent sales tax brings in a little more than the county needs.

“With that excess, we’re not going to just spend it. We’re going to put it aside and when a large economic development project presents itself we’re going to have the money there to take advantage of it,” he said. “Too many times we’ve had opportunities knock on the door, but we didn’t have any money for the matching component of a grant or matching component of a project. Now we will. This is a big boon for the community.”

It’s the first time in a long time the county has had the ability to set aside funds for such projects, Kennedy said.

Clark County Commissioners David Herier, John Detrick and Rick Lohnes said they were pleased with the budget, especially efforts to save money for capital projects that will ensure the county can pay for future economic development projects.

They discussed transferring as much as $500,000 annually for economic development projects, but details about that proposal haven’t been finalized.

“The budget overall has been kept within reason and kept within sensible increases where needed. Economic development is something that in the past has been talked about a whole lot. But this is the first time where we’ve actually made the commitment to set some money aside and actually try to spur development like other communities do all the time,” Herier said.

The departments that saw increases include the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, the coroner’s office and board of elections.

The sheriff’s office was allocated $14.7 million, up from $14 million last year to pay for four additional dispatchers.

The dispatchers are needed due an increase in calls after townships signed contracts to have their 9-1-1 fire and emergency calls covered by the county.

The board of elections will receive more than $1 million this year, a 20 percent increase in funding because of increased cost during a presidential general election year, Kennedy said.

The coroner’s office was allocated $471,000, an 11 percent increase from last year as a result of an increasing number of autopsies performed with a rising number of heroin deaths in the community.

Detrick proposed before the vote increasing the allocation to the Dayton Development Coalition from $10,000 to $25,000 and received support from Lohnes.

“We cannot operate as an island with just Clark County alone. We need to play with the rest of the team. This will make us compare favorably with our neighboring counties. It will also help us with regional economic development,” Detrick said.

Lohnes said he supported increased funding for the Dayton Development Coalition because they have brought jobs to the area.

“It was money well spent,” Lohnes said.

Clark County employees will receive 2 percent raises, which will cost the county $228,000.

“There were years that they didn’t get raises, but their health benefits were pretty much free. The 2 percent raise is just slightly higher than the average inflation rate, but government employees got (about) 1.5 (percent),” Lohnes said.

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