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Commissioners tout positives, note challenges

Darke County Republican Mens Club…
2012 Budget balanced with $500 thousand increase
By Bob Robinson

Despite continuing funding cuts from the state, Darke County Commissioners told Republican Mens Club members and guests Saturday that they’ve signed off on a balanced budget with an increase of over a half million dollars.

The 2012 General Budget is $15,283,197 compared to 2011’s $14,728,394, an increase of $554,804. Estimated revenue for the year is $12,656,732, an increase of $123,434 over 2011.

The budget for all funds, including federal and state dollars, is $55,968,853. This year’s budget allows for a carry-over of $2,596,465. The carry-over is used to pay county operating expenses in 2013 until revenues begin from property taxes.

Commissioner Mike Rhoades noted that it wasn’t too many years ago that minimal carry-overs made operating expenses tough to meet while waiting for property tax revenues to start.

All three commissioners – Rhoades, Diane Delaplane and Mike Stegall – made presentations at the 8 a.m. Saturday meeting to a smaller than usual group, primarily due to the Level One Snow Emergency in effect at the time. Rhoades discussed budget, Delaplane discussed jobs, income and savings opportunities, while Stegall talked about the challenges Darke County faces.

Delaplane thanked Darke Countians for “shopping locally,” resulting in increased sales tax revenue for the county. She and Rhoades thanked all county elected officials for their help keeping expenses down.

Delaplane touted the success of Darke County Economic Development, resulting in 650 jobs added or saved. She added that savings – such as refinancing the Wagner Avenue property with a 15-year payoff – have been used for roof repairs and other maintenance priorities.

She said that state funds were down to $256 thousand (from a previous $900 thousand), adding that new casino funds are supposed to help with that.

“We’ll see,” she said.

Stegall talked about overtime and the coming 911 challenge.

“People complain about Toby’s overtime,” he said, noting that the Prosecutor faces the same problem. “What happens at 10 minutes to four and the deputy gets a call while he’s on his way back to wrap up his shift? Does he continue and let the next shift go out or does he take the call?”

Stegall left the answer up to the group, adding that the sheriff and the prosecutor have no control over work load or its timing.

Stegall said that Darke County took 46,246 - 911 calls last year, or one every 12 and a half minutes. He noted that a 32 cents per cell phone charge (to be used for 911 services) is now down to 28 cents. The new amount represents $116,000 to the county.

And it could drop even more.

“I understand to some extent why,” he said. “It’s been abused by the larger metropolitan areas. Dollars have been skimmed for other things, like salaries.”

He said that a possible continuing decrease is going to hurt counties like Darke that have been using the dollars for their intended purpose, then noted that the county is looking at a coming high tech fiber optics systems mandate.

“It’s better. It’s more efficient. It’s expensive,” he said. It’s going to cost between $500 and $600 thousand dollars.

“Do we need it? Yes! Our number one job is public safety. We’re looking at all options… grants, possible refinancing… anything we can to meet that need.”

State Rep. Jim Buchy was among those attending the Saturday meeting at the Brethren Retirement Community.

“I took down two numbers,” Buchy told the group. “$116,000 and $500 to $600 thousand. There WILL be a 911 system here in 2013.”

On Feb. 18, Darke County Republican Mens Club will hold its Pre-Primary Meet the Candidates. There will be three contested Republican races on March 6. Meetings are open to the public; new members are always welcome.


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