TRUMBULL COUNTY Officials have bleak outlook for budget

The budget commission could determine that more revenue is needed.
WARREN -- Two of Trumbull County's money men are poring over their spreadsheets and having grim thoughts about this year's county budget.
Auditor David Hines and his chief deputy, Adrian Biviano, said Thursday the amount of money carried into 2005 from last year -- $2.1 million -- won't even pay the county's bills for a month.
Trumbull County needs about $3 million a month to carry on normal operations, they said.
Over 12 months, that would be $36 million to $37 million.
Trouble is, they forecast that only $31 million or $32 million will be available for county general fund finances this year.
At the same time, county department heads and elected officials have handed budget requests to county commissioners totaling $40 million.
Based on those requests, the county would face a shortfall this year of $8 million to $9 million, the auditors said.
In reality and compared to last year's final budget figure of $37.7 million, however, this year's shortfall is about $6 million -- just as the county budget commission had predicted last November.
"It doesn't look good," said Hines, who sits on the budget commission with Prosecutor Dennis Watkins and Treasurer Christ Michelakis.
The budget commission by law must meet the first month in February to issue a budget certificate; its members may meet earlier than that, Biviano said.
Among things the budget commission can determine is that the county needs more revenue.
New sales tax?
Hines and Biviano noted that Trumbull County's half-percent sales tax is expected to generate $10.5 million this year.
Trumbull County, they said, is not like other similar-sized Ohio counties, which generally collect sales taxes of three-fourths to 1 percent.
In 2003, voters rejected another half-percent sales tax. Commissioners had imposed that tax earlier in the year. Voters had been asked to indefinitely continue the tax, which ran through March 2004, but more than 77 percent of them said no.
Last November, Hines urged commissioners to make 2005 budget decisions sooner rather than later, including whether to impose a new sales tax. He suggested then that commissioners could begin hearings for a new sales tax before year's end to reduce the wait before collections on a new tax would begin. County commissioners last year declined that request.
It can take about three months from implementation to receive any money on a new sales tax. Sales taxes follow a collection and reimbursement process set up by the state. Enacting one also requires public hearings and a commissioners' vote.
The longer the delay, the less effect on this year's budget, Hines and Biviano said.
For example, they said the now-unlikely prospect of enacting another tax before the end of January would allow the tax to start in April, with the revenue arriving in July.
Waiting until the next quarter and enacting the tax in April would start collection in July, with no revenue until October.

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