Tops 2019 figure by nearly $3 million; Carryover funds push past $24 million total
Despite a pandemic, Union County’s general fund saw record revenue for 2020.
According to the Union County Auditor’s Office, Union County’s general fund received more than $28.1 million for 2020. In 2019, the county had then-record revenue of $25.26 million.
The 2020 revenue number does not include an additional more than $3.15 million in federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
In addition, the county has more than $24.57 million in carryover between the general fund and a variety of other specialty funds. Coming into 2020, the county had almost $17.43 million of carryover.
County Auditor Andrea Weaver had set the estimated revenue for 2020 at $26.84 million.
“We are very healthy,” said Union County Administrator Tim Hansley. “We were very healthy coming into year.”
County officials said that while some revenue sources were down, specifically casino revenue and interest payments off investments, other revenue sources increased. The county saw a $330,000 increase in property tax and more than $230,000 in increased sales tax.
Letitia Rayl, assistant county administrator and county budget officer, said it is difficult to determine exactly how much of the sales tax revenue came from internet sales receipts, but based on the formula from the state she estimates about $969,000 of the $11.24 million in sales tax came from internet sales.
Additionally, Union County received $1.2 million in Bureau of Workers Compensation rebates, which Rayl called a one-time, “pleasant surprise.”
“I think we were very lucky and very fortunate to meet our estimate,” Rayl said. “We certainly didn’t anticipate that at the start of the pandemic.”
Hansley said that until the pandemic, “we were going to have a really good year and we were going to spend some money.”
He said that when the pandemic hit, it was difficult to anticipate how deep the financial impact could be for the county. Officials scaled back or canceled several projects and eliminated some program growth and froze most new hiring.
“We were fortunate that we hadn’t started some of these before the pandemic,” Hansley said.
He said that if the pandemic hit later in the year, “we likely would have needed to make some cutbacks, including some layoffs.”
Rayl said county office holders understood the situation and “did a good job holding their expenses so we had some carryover we were able to move into the 2021 budget.”
She said the county will move about $1.08 million out of a budget stabilization reserve fund and into the 2021 budget.
County officials will also use $150,000 of capital infrastructure reserve funds to match funds for a grant; $542,000 from the capital improvement reserve fund to remodel office holder offices; contribute almost $200,000 from the capital infrastructure reserve fund for Council of Government projects; and use $1.5 million from the capital infrastructure reserve fund to address county ditch petitions.
Additionally, the county will use $1.41 million from the capital improvement reserve fund to pay down debt.
Rayl said that as she discussed 2021 budgets with department heads and elected officials, she was clear the county would take a conservative approach, given the pandemic.
“The unknown here is how long the pandemic will last,” Hansley said.
Rayl said her focus was that county services didn’t “suffer or decline.”
“We want to make sure we can lessen the impact to the county residents as best as we can and provide the basic services that a county relies on,” Rayl said.
Officials said that as the year progresses, they will look at revenue and forecasts and could alter expenses, “but we are going to sit on that revenue until we see and until we understand where all of this is going.”
While there are many unknowns, Hansley said there is one thing for certain.
“We are trying to plan for the future because the growth is going to hit us and it is going to hit us like a wave,” Hansley said.
He compared the growth coming to the growth Dublin and Delaware County have seen.
“When growth finally hits us, we are going to have record expenses,” Hansley said. “We will be forced to spend the money we have set aside.”
He said one of the key takeaways from 2020 is that it is difficult to predict the future and having reserve funds spares the community from some difficult decisions.
“We have weathered the storm and we are ready to weather the storm in the future if we have to,” Hansley said.
He added that if the community says officials are too conservative, “I am OK with that.”
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