TIFFIN — The Seneca County Board of Commissioners formalized a budget reduction plan Thursday morning that will see General Fund salaries and wages reduced by 20 percent in order to meet the revenue shortfall created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday morning, the Seneca County Budget Commission reduced its General Fund revenue projection for 2020 by $2 million.
The budget commission expects decreases in all or most of the county’s top five revenue-generating lines, in addition to varying changes across all other lines.
Sales tax, property tax, casino tax, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and jail housing and local government funds all could experience varying levels of reductions compared to the initial 2020 projections.
Those five revenue earners made up 75.7 percent (about $13.2 million) of projected revenue for this year. Given this significant decrease in estimated revenue, the commissioners agreed to a resolution with expenditure reductions that go into effect Monday. You can view the resolution here.
Board President Shayne Thomas said although the situation is not ideal, the commissioners still must uphold a high standard of fiscal responsibility by balancing the budget.
The cut in salaries coupled with the zeroing out of the travel budget and the halving of the supply budget, should help the county balance the General Fund and counteract an expected sharp decline in revenue, according to the commissioners.
The commissioners also are instituting a hiring freeze, are re-evaluating and canceling many contracts and are not undertaking any capital projects without support from grant funding. The board also agreed to send a letter Thursday to department heads and elected officials that strongly urges a countywide four-day workweek.
“This is not an ideal situation,” Commissioner Anthony Paradiso said. “But we think closing down all county offices on Fridays would reduce overhead and would send a clear and united message to citizens about when our offices are available to provide services.”
Thomas said the county is not alone in dealing with this situation, as residents and business owners across the county also are being adversely affected by the pandemic. Thomas said he and the rest of the board are heartbroken by the situation.
“We fully understand the devastating impact that this decision will have on our family of employees,” Thomas said. “Please understand our heartfelt sincerity when we say that we would not contemplate such drastic measures if other viable options existed.”
Although the future of the pandemic is unclear, the commissioners have taken swift action to balance the budget and remain fiscally responsible. Thomas vowed that county personnel would do their best to continue to provide vital services to the highest extent possible.
“We will restore full operations when it is practical and deemed safe,” Commissioner Mike Kerschner said.
The COVID-19 health crisis has already led to staggering unemployment figures in the state of Ohio.
For the week ending April 4, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 226,007 initial jobless claims to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, which is the second straight week that more than 200,000 new claims were filed by Ohioans.
The number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last three weeks stands at 696,519. To put that in perspective, 364,603 initial jobless claims were filed during the entire year in 2019.