Written by By JAN LARSON Sentinel County Editor
Wednesday, 23 December 2009 08:59
For the first time in recent history, Wood County government will not be handing out any raises in the new year. But unlike many other counties in the region, they also will not be handing out any pink slips.
Though millions of dollars in equipment and capital improvement requests were slashed from the 2010 appropriations, the commissioners managed to not cut any of the county's nearly 1,000 employees.
"You did a lot of cutting without cutting people, and that's where you wanted to be. You've done everything you can to avoid affecting people's jobs," Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said as the commissioners reviewed the letter being sent out to county department heads. "We'll make sure this letter gets to every elected official as soon as possible."
Overall the appropriations for 2010 were cut by 5.36 percent - adding up to $38,358,110 compared to this year's $40,412,453.
The cuts come on the heels of rather grim revenue reports for the county. This year investment revenue plunged more than 26 percent - bringing in $903,085 less than last year. Sales tax revenues dipped nearly 7 percent - adding up to $1,087,307 less than the previous year.
"People are just being more frugal," Commissioner Tim Brown said. And county government needs to follow suit.
"Every citizen I know has cut back," Brown said. "Our citizens want to see government doing what they are doing. I'm pleased we were able to come up with a budget that reflects the frugal mentality of our residents."
Earlier this year, the county had to do some "personnel restructuring" and laid off a "handful" of employees. But some counties are considering massive layoffs, furloughs and overall budget cuts as steep as 15 percent.
"The bubble has burst and what we're left with is a more real economy," Brown said.
The county has already enacted a "hiring freeze" for any new positions, and may have to consider a freeze on filling spots vacated by retiring employees.
Meanwhile, Wood County has struggled to continue providing core services to residents, according to Commissioner Jim Carter.
"The core responsibility of Wood County government is what we're trying to maintain here," he said. "We're still giving the services people expect. Our citizens expect us to manage."
The commissioners are also committed to preserving the county's general fund cash carryover, which will be between $9 million and $10 million as the new year rolls around.
That carryover may be needed later, since the commissioners don't expect a quick recovery for the economy - especially when it comes to the weakened state budget.
"We might make it through 2010, but 2011 looks really bad at this point," Kalmar said.
The commissioners agreed to meet monthly with budget staff to get updates, review trends and compare expenditures to revenues throughout the year.
But while the state forecast is gloomy, Brown pointed out that Wood County should benefit from working hard to generate green energy jobs, such as at First Solar in Perrysburg Township, and intermodal jobs through the CSX site near North Baltimore.
"There are positives in this story," Brown said.