COLUMBIANA CO. Auditor: Financial outlook bleak

LISBON -- Columbiana County is entering 2002 with a cash carry-over from last year that's less than what county Auditor Nancy Milliken says she'd like to see.
Milliken said Monday that the county government will carry about $574,000 into 2002 from 2001.
Ideally the carry-over would be closer to $1 million, said Milliken, who called the county's 2002 financial picture bleak.
County and local governments typically carry cash over from one year to the next to ensure there's money available to pay bills that come due early in the new year before revenue from taxes and other sources becomes available.
But county government is entering into 2002 after struggling to get through last year. This year's budget is tight, with proposed expenditures of $16.7 million outpacing predicted receipts by about $4 million.
Unpaid bills: The county also is starting 2002 with two large unpaid balances from 2001.
The county owes $391,088 to CiviGenics Inc., the company that runs the county jail.
It also owes $416,718 to a multi-county juvenile justice system to which Columbiana County belongs.
Commissioners have said they're trying to find money to pay those debts.
Meanwhile, they've imposed a 0.5 percent increase in the county's 1 percent sales tax that, if unchallenged, will take effect in about seven weeks.
The increase would produce about $3 million annually in revenue and help the county out of its financial jam, commissioners have said.
But area residents opposed to the increase without its' being submitted to a popular vote are launching a referendum effort.
If successful, a referendum would force a vote on the tax increase. It also could block collections on the increase until a vote is conducted.

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