XENIA — Greene County Commissioners approved the county’s $52.6 million 2016 budget Thursday afternoon. The new year’s general fund, which grew by about $5 million (about 11 percent) over 2015 budget numbers, is the county’s largest budget in the last 10 years. The budget includes about $3.8 million of one-time capital expenses that the county has deferred in recent years, which puts the county’s operating budget at $48.7 million for the year.
Greene County Administrator Brandon Huddleson pointed to a rebounding economy as contributing to the budget growth and said the county has seen about a six-percent increase in sales tax revenues this year.
“Revenues are looking strong over the last couple of years,” he said. “We’ve had quite a bit of business growth and residential growth. … We have a healthy retail environment. … We were glad to be able to expand services with those expanded dollars.”
Huddleson estimated 2016 revenues to be about $49.5 million. The remaining capital expenses will be paid for out of the county’s estimated $25 million of cash carry-over.
Huddleson said he was pleased with the budget commissioners approved, and said, “I’m happy with this budget, and I’m also happy that we’re able to invest in some capital improvements and to do some of those deferred maintenance things that we’ve been putting off and take care of what we have. … When the budget was cut back in the mid-2000s, we just had to stop investing in our capital improvements and repairs. With the strong revenue source and our cash balance, we were able to invest a few dollars in our infrastructure.”
According to Huddleson, some of those projects budgeted for 2016 include a $1.5 million HVAC project at the Greene County Courthouse, a $1.3 million improvement project at the Greene County Airport, saving $500,000 for election equipment in 2017 (2016 will be the third of four years of putting away that amount for the equipment), as well as other projects throughout the county.
Notable changes in comparison to the 2015 budget include a $2.4 million jump in funding for the Greene County Sheriff’s Office (total 2016 budget of $14.4 million), a $1.6 million increase in appropriations for building and grounds capital improvements (total 2016 budget of $1.9 million), a $1.3 million jump in funding for the Greene County Airport (total 2016 budget of $1.4 million), a $530,000 jump in funding for the Greene County Board of Elections (total 2016 budget of $1.4 million) and a $1.2 million drop in expenses.
According to Huddleson, increases to the sheriff’s office budget include $1.3 million to reopen two pods for inmates at the Greene County Adult Detention Center, as well as $1.1 million in funding for more road patrols, courthouse security officers and detectives, “in an effort to reduce overtime and fatigue,” he said.
The increase in funding for the airport is a one-time investment, according to Huddleson. Commissioners have previously indicated that they wanted to invest in the airport as an economic hub for the county.
The increase in funding for the Greene County Board of Elections comes in preparation for the 2016 presidential election.
Commissioners also approved a two-percent raise for county employees under their authority Thursday, which excludes bargaining-unit employees and those under the authority of elected officials. Huddleson noted Thursday that commissioners budgeted funds for two-percent raises for employees under the authority of elected officials for 2016, excluding those in the Greene County Prosecutor’s office.
The largest budget appropriations for the new year included approximately $14.4 million for the Greene County Sheriff, $6 million for the county’s miscellaneous operating expenses, $2.6 million for the Greene County Juvenile Court, $2.6 million for Greene County Services, $2 million for the Greene County Prosecutor and $1.9 million for building and grounds capital improvements on Greene County properties.
“I think we are cautiously optimistic that things are going to continue to improve,” Huddleson said. “We’re excited about what’s going on in Greene County. It remains a great place to live and work. We’re not surprised that people are coming here, that businesses want to locate within Greene County. It’s a great place to be.”
Reach Nathan Pilling at 937-502-4498 or on Twitter @XDGNatePilling.