MILLERSBURG -- From the county's share of casino tax revenues, the Holmes County commissioners will no longer be giving regular support to the Holmes County General Health District.
On Monday, the commissioners passed a resolution discontinuing, effective Dec. 30, annual sharing of $80,000 of the county's casino revenues with the health district.
By resolution, passed in February 2014, the commissioners agreed to transfer $20,000 each quarter to the Holmes County Health Department Fund. Since August 2013, the health district has received $320,000 in casino revenues from the commissioners, who elected to financially help to support attainment of accreditation in the wake of several failed levy attempts.
At the time, the commissioners said, it was a short-term fix to the district's funding woes. Now that they say the district is doing better financially, and they hope to put that money to other use.
Although "sad to see it go," Holmes County Health Commissioner Michael Derr said, "We knew it was temporary to help with accreditation."
He said he appreciates the support, noting, "There are not a lot of county commissioners who value their health board in the same way. For them, they're always looking for ways to fund projects across the board, and it was nice for them to do it for a couple of years."
And, while finances "will be tight" without that money, Derr said, "We have found additional funding sources to help with accreditation and make the cut easier to bear."
While the casino funds were intended to help fund accreditation, he said, some had to be used to offset the local cost associated with response to the 2014 measles outbreak, which also has caused a delay in attaining accreditation. That said, he said, he is optimistic the health district will attain accreditation, or at least be site-evaluated, by the end of 2017.
In all of 2016, Holmes County received a total of $519,338 in casino revenues, $80,000 of which went to the health district. In March, they took action that would deposit the county's share into a contingencies line item in the general fund. Prior to that, the funds had been deposited into a reserve account, the total of which is now nearly $1.29 million, which was approaching the statutory cap.
"We're discussing some projects for the future," said Commissioner Rob Ault, who said the county's share of a plan to realign and signalize the County Road 77/state Route 39 intersection, nearly Hiland High School, may be funded through contingencies.
Recently, Ohio Department of Transportation District 11 leadership indicated an intention to commit about $1 million in discretionary money to the project, the total cost of which is estimated at $1.6 million, according to the commissioners, who said they intend to kick in between $300,000 and $500,000 over the next few years.
Based on ODOT estimates, the commissioners said, construction is likely to begin in late 2019 or early 2020.
While crash statistics don't support priority funding for the project, Holmes Commissioner Joe Miller said it's an important one for the county, especially given the large volume of student drivers who pass through that intersection during the school year.
"We don't like doing stuff for the state, but it's such a critical area and it's about kids' safety," Miller said.
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.