Auditor expects county surplus of $360K in ’11

Published: Wed, August 31, 2011 @ 12:09 a.m.

tax, state revenues exceed estimates

By Peter H. Milliken


With two-thirds of the year elapsed, Mahoning County’s general fund is projected to finish the year with a $363,478 surplus after it makes debt payments and covers operating expenses, the county’s chief deputy auditor said.

A total of $54,318,663 has been appropriated for spending so far, and the county commissioners plan to add $1.1 million to that to enable the sheriff’s department to maintain current jail operations the rest of the year.

The county entered the year with a carry-over from 2010 of $5,035,400, and the veterans service commission is expected to return about $500,000 in unused money to the general fund, Carol McFall, chief deputy auditor, explained.

The county must make $10,776,122 in debt payments Dec. 1, but it then will refinance $6.5 million of that, McFall said in a report she gave the county commissioners in a Tuesday staff meeting.

The county’s debt includes borrowing for renovations at Oakhill Renaissance Place and the courthouse, she said.

McFall said total general-fund revenues are now projected to be higher than what was projected at the beginning of this year due to higher-than-expected sales and real-estate tax collections and state funding.

Total general-fund revenue originally was projected at $53,412,860 but is now estimated to be $54,454,827, McFall said. The general fund is the county’s main operating fund.

“I’m very happy that the sales-tax funding stream looks to be pretty solid this year. I’m also happy that, at least for this year, it looks like some state tax collections are helping us in the local government end,” said John A. McNally IV, chairman of the county commissioners.

Sales-tax revenues initially were projected to be $28,250,000, but that has been increased to $28,950,889, McFall reported.

“I think a lot of people weren’t spending last year” and became more confident at the beginning of this year, McFall said. “Now, what happens in the last quarter of the year is what’s going to get interesting. The conversation over the debt ceiling with Congress, I think, has scared a lot of consumers.”

Estimates for real-estate tax revenue have risen from $7,272,000 to $7,418,000, possibly due to new construction or improved tax-collection methods, McFall added.

The allocation from the state has risen from $4,751,110 to $4,824,822, likely due to improved statewide sales-tax collections, she said.

McFall said, however, that interest income to the general fund is likely to fall from the initially projected $1.3 million to $880,000 due to low interest rates and reduced cash balances in the county’s capital-project funds.

McFall expressed concern about the facilities maintenance department having spent 86.7 percent of its $3 million budget as of Aug. 24, with only 61.5 percent of the year having elapsed as of that date.

Pete Triveri, facilities director, said that’s partly due to his recalling laid-off staff to build new board of elections quarters at Oakhill Renaissance Place. Some of the costs of that project should be paid for from the county’s capital-improvement fund, not the general fund, he added.

On another issue, Triveri and McNally said they intend to have new county courthouse attic flooring installed before the heating season begins to stop water from leaking from an area housing 14 boilers and eight hot-water pumps and damaging the fourth-floor ceiling.

The county likely won’t need to operate those boilers until late October or early November, Triveri said.

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