Geauga County Commissioners began the process Tuesday to set a budget for 2020.
Commissioners conducted a public hearing on its 2020 tax budget that will be 2-percent higher than 2019. Adrian Gorton, county budget and finance manager, explained that a portion of that increase is due to an added pay period in 2020, which will amount to approximately $610,000.
Geauga County Administrator Gerald Morgan said the numbers used are determined after department heads submit their budgets to the county. The permanent appropriation for 2020, he said, will be determined this fall. Mr. Morgan said the county is planning no raises, except where contractually obligated.
Mr. Gorton said the county will have a total tax budget of $122.3 million, which accounts for all money taken in by political entities in the county. The general fund, which the commissioners oversee, is projected to be $35.3 million. As is often the case, various departments have requested more than is expected to come in with requested funding of $37.3 million.
Debra Ashburn, the county’s fiscal specialist, provided a look at where the county’s revenues come from. By far, she said, sales taxes are the largest revenue producers, comprising about 46 percent of all revenues. She said in terms of dollars, sales taxes will provide $14 million for the county. She noted that the county only collects 1 percent of the 6.75 percent charged for sales tax, while the state takes the remainder. She added that of the state’s 88 counties, only two counties are lower with 6.5 percent.
Mr. Morgan said sales tax is a benefit in another way in that out-of-county residents, who shop in Geauga, also pay into the pot.
Ms. Ashburn said property taxes are the second largest source of revenue and provide about $7.9 million. She broke it down to show how $1 of property taxes is divided among political entities. School districts take about 52.6 cents of every dollar, townships, villages and cities get 16.7 cents, the library receives 3.5 cents and the county takes 4.1 cents.
Mr. Gorton said the county’s general fund is projected to receive $30.3 million in revenues, an increase of about $900,000 over 2019.
He said most sources of revenue are projected to be the same or very near the same as this year.
While revenues have shown a steady increase, Mr. Gorton said the county remains conservative in its spending and limited the carryover to $5 million. He said sales taxes are projected to rise about $300,000 this year.
While the county’s general fund will be at the $35.3 million mark in 2020, several factors pushed the figure higher than normal. He said expenses, like $1.2 million for new election voting equipment, accounts for the higher figure.
He said the county is also anticipating an approximately 5 percent increase in hospitalization costs for 2020. He said the county saw a 4.5 percent increase in health care costs in 2018, but a 1.2 percent decrease in those costs in 2019.
Mr. Gorton said the bulk of the general fund expenditures remains with salaries and benefits, which account for about 66 percent of the general fund budget.
Mr. Gorton also outlined the county’s goals for 2020. Those goals are to continue a conservative approach to revenues and expenses, looking to maximize utilization of available funding to improve county buildings, increase operational efficiencies and strive to attract new businesses and retain existing ones.
Commissioners are expected to formally accept the tax budget at their next meeting.