MOUNT VERNON — For the second consecutive year, the Knox County Commissioners did not have to dip into the county's cash carry-over to meet budget expenses.
County Auditor Jonette Curry projects $18.838 million in revenue for 2020. The commissioners adopted a budget on Tuesday that reflects $18.696 million in expenses, leaving $142,000 in unappropriated revenue.
Projected revenue is up $925,300 compared to last year. Forty-nine percent comes from the county sales tax; another 21% comes from general property tax.
Justice expenses of $8.76 million are $158,433 higher than in 2019. At 47%, the justice system once again accounts for the largest portion of costs. Insurance and contingencies account for 13%; debt service accounts for 5%.
Overall, after factoring out the expense of an extra pay period in 2020, the budget increased by 4.9% compared to 2019 appropriations.
Juvenile probation salaries increased by 3% due to hiring an additional probation transportation officer. The Knox County Sheriff's Office previously assumed the cost of transportation through its jail budget.
The jail budget overall is lower than last year, primarily due to reducing the transportation cost and moving the debt payment to the Buildings & Grounds account. However, the budget does reflect a $50,000 reduction in utilities due to HVAC upgrades in 2019.
Within the KCSO operations budget, the detectives salaries line item increased because the KCSO is now absorbing the full cost of a detective working with children's services. Knox County Job & Family Services is no longer paying part of the cost because 60% of the work is for the City of Mount Vernon. Sheriff David Shaffer told the commissioners on Nov. 24 that he plans to ask the city to fund $40,000 of the cost. If the city declines, the 60% that are city cases will become the responsibility of city detectives.
Public Defender expenses also increased due to hiring a new assistant PD.
The Board of Elections will get $48,690 more than last year since 2020 is a presidential election year.
“If you go back to 2016, they had similar expenses, so their appropriation increased up to $543,095 from $494,405,” said County Administrator Jason Booth.
The commissioners' account includes several realignments. Money previously allocated for information technology moved to the IT budget. The $332,250 IT budget includes salary and benefits for the recently hired IT director as well as the remaining four months on the Info-Link contract.
A new line item, community support, reflects $221,000 previously allocated individually to groups such as the Knox County Historical Society, KSAAT, and the Area Development Foundation.
Collectively, contract counsel for juvenile, common pleas, and municipal courts increased. “We increased them by $25,000 from 2019 because what we appropriated fell short,” explained Booth.
The Buildings & Grounds account was also realigned to include payments on all outstanding bonds. Of the $790,000 increase, $740,000 is for bond payments for the Central School renovations, fairgrounds land purchase, and various parking, HVAC, and jail upgrades or repairs. Booth said the county will make the last payment on the jail and fairgrounds bonds in 2021.
The OSU Extension line item shows a net decrease of $20,000. Meeting with the commissioners on Nov. 24, Extension Educator John Barker said salaries and benefits will decrease by $24,000 due to personnel changes. Computer support will increase by $4,000 due to the Ohio State University requiring a new computer every four years and that OSU provides all tech support.
In 2018, the county had $400,000 in unappropriated revenue. It was the first time since the 2008 recession the commissioners did not have to use cash carry-over funds to plug the budget. Because of that, the commissioners created a special revenue account to serve as a buffer against unexpected expenses.
Since the reserve fund is part of the general fund budget, there are no restrictions on what it can be used for. It does, however, take a special release from the commissioners before it can be spent. A capital improvement emergency or an unanticipated death penalty case are potential uses for the reserve funds.
In 2018, the commissioners earmarked $720,000 for the account. They plan to add another $195,000 later this month.
With the second year of unappropriated revenue, the commissioners are again planning for the future.
After adopting the 2020 budget, they passed a resolution creating a Budget Stabilization Fund. Money in this fund can only be used for retirement payouts (such as sick leave, vacation time, or payment instead of comp time) or for salaries in years where there is an extra pay period.
One of the quirks in the 2020 budget stems from a calendar oddity. Every 11 years, there is an extra pay period in the year. Such is the case for 2020. That means next year's budget includes about $312,000 extra in employee salaries and associated benefits such as workers compensation and insurance.
The commissioners set aside $50,000 in 2020 for the stabilization fund to help ease budgets when this anomaly occurs. They are not required to fund this account each year but plan to do so in years when there is unappropriated revenue.