October 21, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain County budget set at $62.1M

ELYRIA    County commissioners on Thursday approved a 2008 budget of $62.1 million — about $2 million more than the county estimates it spent this year.

County Budget Director Lisa Hobart said next year’s budget is nearly the same as what was budgeted for this year, taking into account salary increases for county employees and an additional $300,000 for county jail operations.

And as with this year, the county will be forced to dip into its carryover, Hobart said.

Hobart estimates that the county will have a carryover of between $11.8 million and $12 million at the end of the year, but county Auditor Mark Stewart puts the number higher — closer to $13.4 million. Last year, Stewart also predicted that the carryover would be higher than the $11.8 million the budget department predicted. The county brought about $15 million forward from 2006 into 2007.

The county is estimating that it will bring in about

$51 million in revenue next year, but Hobart said that’s a conservative figure. Last year, the county estimated that it would bring in about

$49 million in 2007, but it now appears the county’s revenues will be about $57.9 million.

Still, there’s no guarantee that will happen again in 2008, county Administrator Jim Cordes said. The county brought in a record $8 million in interest income this year, but county Treasurer Dan Talarek estimates it will drop down to $5 million next year as the federal government lowers interest rates.

The county also won’t be able to count on other one-time cash infusions — such as about $1 million it recovered from lawsuits and criminal investigations — next year.

“We got real lucky,” Cordes said. “A couple of nice things happened.”

Commissioner Lori Kokoski said she hopes Stewart’s estimate of the carryover is correct because that will mean the county will have more money to work with next year. But she’s also not ruling out possible budget cuts in the future or the possibility of trying for another sales tax hike.

Voters shot down a 0.25 percent sales tax increase in November that would have brought in about $7.4 million annually for the county.

But measures like a tax hike or budget cuts will have to wait until the county begins doing business next year and takes a measure of how much revenue it will bring in, Kokoski said.

“A budget is a living document, so we can change it depending on what happens,” she said.

Commissioner Betty Blair said it’s still too early to tell what will happen next year.

“The year is young yet — it — going to have to monitor that,” Blair said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7174 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.