The Seneca County Board of Commissioners agreed to bring back some employees after hearing a positive financial update Thursday morning.
In April, the commissioners formalized $2 million in budget cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The cuts included a 20-percent decrease to salaries across county departments.
On Thursday, County Administrator Stacy Wilson presented the August sales tax report, which due to a lag in the time it takes for counties to receive sales tax funding, represents some of May and most of June’s tax receipts.
Following the report, the commissioners agreed to bring the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office and the Seneca County Youth Center back to 100-percent employment. The board agreed to wait for more information from the Sept. 9 Seneca County Budget Commission meeting before making further decisions about staffing.
Wilson said the county received $855,028.06 in sales tax for August, which is about 12.7 percent higher than the $758,970.14 collected in August 2019. The figure marked the best August sales tax number in the past seven years.
August’s figure followed two of the worst months in the past seven years, as July was down 9 percent compared to July 2019 and June was down 16 percent compared to June 2019.
Before the pandemic began to affect the local economy, the county was on pace for a record-setting year for sales tax receipts. At the end of April, the county had received more than $3.1 million in sales tax receipts, which was 6.5 percent higher than the total through the same period in 2019.
Some officials from across the state believe the strong August sales tax figure was a product of pent-up demand and new federal money being infused into communities.
The August sales tax figure would represent the time when Ohio businesses began to reopen after the COVID-19 shutdown. According to information from the U.S. Small Business Administration, 48 Seneca County businesses received SBA loans of at least $150,000 to help with payroll.
The loans reportedly helped to retain 4,550 jobs and brought between $28 million and $70 million of new funds into the community. A rough estimate also shows that about $24 million was infused into the local economy through federal stimulus checks.
One other caveat to note is that higher unemployment figures may have helped the local economy during the pandemic due to the additional $600 a week in federal unemployment offered through the CARES Act. Many employees received an increase in pay for being unemployed or underemployed during this time.
Local officials say it is difficult to estimate how much new funding this brought into the local economy, but it likely was a significant amount and could have contributed to the positive August sales tax report.
Some worry that as the economy normalizes and the federal assistance leaves the community, the overall size of the local economy will shrink, and sales tax receipts could suffer in the long-term. Some businesses and jobs that were lost due to the pandemic may not return soon.
Commissioner Anthony Paradiso said he was encouraged by the positive August sales tax report, but he urged the board to stay cautious and skeptical, and to continue to closely follow financial reports.
In other business, the commissioners agreed to approve about $114,000 for various projects to be paid for out of Coronavirus Relief Funds. Projects included for deep cleaning, personal protective equipment and technology upgrades to deal with remote working for several departments.
The county received about $923,000 through the CARES Act, and officials are continuing to decide how to spend the money. Some payroll is eligible to be reimbursed, and Seneca Regional Planning Commission has also submitted a federal grant application in hopes of reimbursing payroll for safety services.
Also during the meeting, personnel from Tiffin-Seneca Economic Partnership presented a quarterly report. President and CEO David Zak discussed the overall development and growth of the organization while thanking the county for its partnership with T-SEP.
The commissioners also heard from Development Managers Audrey Flood and Nick Dutro, Downtown Main Street Manager Amy Reinhart and Businesses Services Consultant Carol Kern.
In new business, the commissioners approved:
- A $150,000 supplemental appropriation to the General Fund.
- A $22,053.77 fund advance from the General Fund to the Bulletproof Vest Fund.
- A $7,351.26 fund transfer to the Bulletproof Vest Fund.
- Designating the official representative and alternate for voting at the CORSA annual membership meeting for 2020.
- Designating the official representative and alternate for voting at the County Commissioners Association of Ohio annual meeting for 2020.
Below is a document provided by the Seneca County Commissioners delving deeper into the financial situation.