MILLERSBURG -- A 2017 budget, to include money for employee raises, was approved Monday, Jan. 23, by the Holmes County commissioners.
At a reconvened session of their regular business meeting, the commissioners gave a nod of approval to the 2017 general fund budget, which includes appropriations totaling nearly $14.15 million. That's down slightly from the $14.17 million budgeted for 2016 and the $13.7 million actually spent last year. It also includes a carryover of $4.5 million.
Estimated revenues for the year total $15.9 million. They include the carryover and an addition $1.2 million, which does not get re-appropriated annually. Consequently, revenues available for appropriation total $14.7 million, leaving a total of $501,203 unappropriated for the year.
All departments received a 3 percent increase in their salary line item, to be distributed and spent at the discretion of the department heads and elected officials, according to the commissioners, who have repeatedly urged managers to implement pay increases based on merit.
It also includes a 4 percent increase for employees at the Holmes County Sheriff's Office. The increase, along with 3 percent raises for 2018 and 2019, were approved in a separate action, in which the board signed a three-year contract with the bargaining units representing the corrections, communications and patrol officers.
"We've got a lot of great employees, and the cost of living goes up," said Commissioner Rob Ault, noting the commissioners hope funding for raises will help to satisfy the increase, considering there was no increase in employees' share of insurance premiums for the year.
The appropriations also include statewide increases in pay for elected officials, with the exception of Holmes County Auditor Jackie McKee and Commissioner Rob Ault, who are unable to receive the pay increases because they are in midterm.
As in the past, Commissioner Joe Miller said, many departments returned unspent general fund money at the end of 2016. "We give that back to them," he said, noting departments are not penalized for failing to spend all their appropriated funds.
"It's not use it or lose it," said Ault, citing philosophies embraced by other governing bodies.
In all, most department budgets are up slightly from total requests of $11.4 million. The most significant increase was in the miscellaneous fund, for which the request was $1.2 million and the appropriation was just over $3.7 million.
Included in that fund is the contingencies line item to which they appropriated nearly $2.5 million. It is through this line item the commissioners have been funding a variety of community projects. Among those they anticipate funding in the future, they said, is the county's contribution to a planned upgrade and signalization of the intersection of state Route 39 and County Road 77, near Hiland High School.
Over the past year, the commissioners have given out of contingencies $100,000 to the Holmes County District Public Library to support the purchase of a new bookmobile, $150,000 to the Holmes County Fair Board to aid in the construction of the animal barn the new Harvest Ridge property and $198,000 to the sheriff's office for the purchase of a new radio system.
It is out of this fund they committed, in October, $100,000 to the Holmes County Hardwood Furniture Guild to pay for pipe and drape to be used at the Harvest Ridge exposition center.
In December, they also moved $2 million out of contingencies to establish the county's new self-funded health insurance program.
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or email@example.com.