By Ed Runyan
Oil and gas in the Utica Shale underneath Trumbull County haven’t brought an economic windfall to the county government yet, but officials think 2013 could be the year it starts.
The county’s sales-tax revenue rose $845,000 in 2012 compared with 2011 — a 3.6 percent increase — from $22.3 million to $23.14 million.
But that’s less than the increase the county saw from 2010 to 2011, which was $1.8 million.
Adrian Biviano, Trumbull County auditor, said economic news in the past few years has been good generally, but sales-tax receipts from October and November 2012 collections, the most recent months available, show a $50,000 decrease.
“That’s not good” and doesn’t indicate that economic activity is moving in an upward direction right now, Biviano said.
Trumbull County commissioners Dan Polivka and Paul Heltzel both said Tuesday they believe drilling that companies such as BP America and Halcon Resources Group are planning this year will give a boost to Trumbull County jobs and sales-tax revenue.
“Everyone’s hopeful that things will kick in with the shale,” Heltzel said. “BP’s doing test wells. We should be finding out how those did in two to three months.”
“We’re hoping with the leases that were signed, we’ll see an increase in spending,” Polivka said. “We actually haven’t seen it increase yet.”
More people working — and buying goods such as vehicles — would generate sales-tax revenue.
Today, the county commissioners are expected to approve a 2012 general-fund budget of $43.4 million, which is $1.3 million more than last year’s spending plan.
About $800,000 to $900,000 of that will cover the county’s portion of the increase in health care costs for employees, Biviano said.
Most county employees contribute 10 percent to the cost of their health insurance, though one bargaining unit contributes 15 percent, said Jim Keating, county human resources director. County employees get step pay increases but haven’t had percentage pay increases in recent contracts.
Other increases will be for capital improvements in the vehicle-maintenance department, a new vehicle for the Veterans Commission and roof work at the law library, Biviano said.
Otherwise, spending will be “flat” in 2013, he said.
The county started collecting revenue from the state’s casinos last year and projects to receive $1.2 million to $1.3 million this year, but that won’t make up for the reduced revenue the state has given the county from the Local Government Fund.
Those payments have dropped by about $2 million since 2008 and will drop an additional $700,000 in 2013, Biviano said.
“You can’t spend money you don’t have in the bank,” Polivka said of the 2013 budget.