Hocking County Finances Almost ‘On Par’ With Budget

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Hocking County finances are “almost right on par” for the year, said Hocking County Auditor Ken Wilson. He presented Hocking County Commissioners with a financial report covering the first half of 2014 at their Thursday meeting.

One budget area he urged commissioners to watch closely is that of Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail costs. So far this year, the county has spent $409,000 on jail expenses. If the same pace is kept, the county will spend over $800,000, exceeding the budgeted $719,000.

One cause of the elevated costs was some very ill inmates, Wilson noted. “We’ve been hit pretty heavily with medical bills,” he said.

Hocking County Commissioner Clark Sheets also noted that the fee structure governing each participating county’s share of jail costs had changed the first day of this year, further affecting the county’s jail costs.

On a positive note, county revenue as of June 30 stood at 55.91 percent, or more than half, of the year’s projected revenue. Halfway through the year, expenditures stood at 49 percent of the year’s funds.

“At least on paper, we’re about average,” Wilson said.

Sheets voiced concern over the county’s long-range financial forecast if the county stays on the same trajectory. “We’re going to be in a terrible place,” Sheets said.

Wilson acknowledged that counties face two options for helping their financial future: Either “tweak” spending or improve revenue. Because local taxpayers feel sufficiently taxed already, he said that counties probably lean toward changing spending.

The topic of casino tax revenues surfaced. Wilson said that money made at racinos will surpass that made at casinos. People are choosing to go to local races, such as Scioto Downs, rather than to a casino. While casino tax revenues go to local governments, racino tax revenues go to the state budget.

“Casino revenue is an absolute moving target from quarter to quarter,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s office and the commissioners are prepared to distribute budget-balancing worksheets to county departments.