Updated Fri, Jul 5, 2013 1:43 pm
Athens County officials are waiting to see what impact Ohio University's switch to semesters will have on sales tax revenue this year.
At this point, sales tax revenue for the county is only up 0.68 percent compared to this time last year, according to County Commissioner Lenny Eliason.
County Auditor Jill Thompson said just over $2.87 million has been received through June, up $19,337 from this time last year. She said the sales tax is county government's largest source of revenue.
While there were increases of between 1.08 and 2.67 percent in January, February, March and May, compare to last year, figures for April and June were down 1.28 percent and 2.25 percent, respectively.
Eliason said the full impact of the semester change won't be known for a few months. Thompson said there is a lag of between one and two months from when a sale takes place and the county receives the tax money. That's because the state collects sales taxes from businesses and then gives the county its share.
Spring semester at OU ended on May 4, and fall semester begins Aug. 26. Revenue from August sales won't be known until a month or two later.
At the beginning of the year, the amount of sales tax revenue certified for 2013, and therefore available for budgeting, was $5.4 million. Eliason said that based on the figures available so far, he believes the county will meet that certification.
Amounts certified at the beginning of the year are usually conservative.
Thompson said the county has never failed to achieve its certification of sales tax revenue.
Last year, $5.8 million was collected. Thompson said the county never certifies the prior year's figure because officials want to make sure that revenue meets the certification and want to leave a cushion in case anticipated revenue from other sources falls short.
The county has a 1.25 percent sales tax, with 1 percent earmarked for the county's general fund and 0.25 percent going to Athens County 911.
The fact that this year's sales tax revenue has declined some months was brought up at Wednesday's county commissioners meeting by Eliason when Sheriff Patrick Kelly told the commissioners that $12,577 is needed to maintain a victims advocate position at the sheriff's office for September through December. The sheriff's office didn't get its normal grant for the position this year, but was able to obtain some overage money from the state to fund the position for part of the year.
Eliason said he did not what to make a commitment Wednesday to fund the position because he wants to have a better idea of the county's financial situation, including knowing how much in casino revenue tax the county will be receiving from the state. The county's first-quarter share was $328,764, but the second-quarter amount has not yet been received, Eliason said.
Kelly noted there is a possibility that the sheriff's office will receive additional money through the state to cover most of the $12,577. He said he wanted to make the commissioners aware that some additional funding will be needed, and to be on the "top of the list" when the commissioners have funds available.