At Tuesday’s commissioner’s meeting, the county’s fiscal woes weren’t on the agenda. However, it became a topic of conversation nonetheless.
The County is still facing looming budget cuts, known as the MCO tax. While the details of the tax and any reprieve counties might receive from the state are still unknown, the Scioto County Commissioners have already begun preparing for the $2.1 million tax to take effect.
The commissioners have touted their preparations as preparing for the “worst-case scenario.” The commissioners have already cut their budget by more than $400,000 since the beginning for the year.
If the “worst-case scenario” comes to fruition, the Chairman of the Scioto County Commissioners Bryan Davis said non-mandated programs, such has 4-H, economic development, as well as many others, could be affected. He went on to say it didn’t necessarily mean they would be affected, but there would be a possibility.
Davis went on to say that mandated areas, essentially everyone from the commissioners, to the auditor’s office, to the prosecutor, to the sheriff could feel the effects.
One of the non-mandated organizations that has already felt the effects from the commissioners is the Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA).
SOPA, who has relied on the commissioners in the past to provide funding, hasn’t received any funding from the commissioners in 2017. Then, Sept. 21, the commissioners notified SOPA that the organization was no longer in charge of economic development. The decision spurred negative reactions from members of SOPA, which were addressed by the commissioners Tuesday.
“Two letters — BS,” Scioto County Commissioner Mike Crabtree said. “There were a lot of things that were thrown back and forth, and as far as I’m concerned, there is no credibility to 99 percent of it. The reality is we have been open with the board. We told them what our position was, why, and the things we were facing as a County.
“Obviously are job as county commissioners is to make sure the county is solvent and that we can keep the offices open throughout the year. Beyond that, if we have additional funds, we help other entities —the OSU Extension, Soil and Water, Port Authority; a number of things, but we don’t really have a direct mandate to do so.”
Crabtree said that the commissioners don’t mind helping various entities. However, with the tight funding, tough decisions are inevitable.
Scioto County Commissioner Cathy Coleman echoed Crabtree’s sentiments.
“There’s been so much turmoil and division. I just want to speak for myself. I was elected to represent this county and its citizens. I was elected and quite a few people voted for me, so that tells me they have faith in me,” Coleman said. “As I sit here on this board, the only thing that I am going to do is make the best decisions — in my opinion — for this county. Sometimes it’s not pleasant and sometimes we do things that will have direct effect on departments, but we have to do what we have to do.
“As long as I am here, there is no room for politics in the seat of the board of commissioners. I don’t believe that any of us have shown that. We’ve been accused of having egos and jealousy, and (playing) politics, and I’m offended by that. I think everyone of us has proven that we are here to do a job and that job is not for us, it’s for everyone.”
Davis said SOPA was taken off economic development, however, bonding and land transfers were still an important part of the organizations venture.
“They have put us in an untenable situation,” Davis said. “They have gutted their finances, willing done that themselves. There is no more money for a director on their end. Why they thought that bonding and why they thought that land transfers were not economic development functions is beyond me. Those are two key economic development functions. But yet, they chose to pull their finances out and distribute them because certain board members said those weren’t economic development functions.”
Davis has also publicly called for the resignation of any board member who doesn’t agree with the new direction of SOPA. He has made that plea twice. Chris Smith is the first board member of SOPA to tender his resignation after those pleas.
“He sent us his letter of resignation,” Davis said. “His reason for resigning is he’s tied up with other boards, but his main reason for being on there was for the (Scioto County Land Reutilization Program) Land Bank and he said that’s being handled. He would like to continue to work with the Scioto County Land Reutilzation Corporation, because he’s with the health department and they have their own Land Bank. He said, ‘I want to continue to work with you, but as far as the Port Authority, I want to move on.’”
Aside from SOPA, Davis acknowledged that the county needed to increase tax revenue. However, the State of Ohio is only giving counties two years before the MCO cuts are taking place and according to Davis, that timeline isn’t even etched in stone. Davis said Scioto County has been blessed and has “bucked the trend” with its recent sale-tax revenue.
“There are a lot of people working in the county right now with the bypass,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of construction people. A lot of people are spending money on services and things like that. That’s going to end next year. We’re all too aware of that issue.”
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1927, or on Twitter @crslone.