Franklin County Administrator Kenneth N. Wilson this morning presented his recommended 2018 budget to the Board of Commissioners, and hearings on the budget will continue this afternoon. In his presentation, Wilson said that this year’s budget places an emphasis on Franklin County’s ongoing fiscal sustainability, preserving the county’s double Triple-A bond rating, and on preserving the county’s “rainy day fund”.
At nearly $452 million, the proposed General Fund budget is 1.6% higher than projected 2017 expenditures, and more than $10 million lower than what county agencies had requested. The recommended All Funds budget, which includes state and federal pass-through dollars, is at $1.57 billion. The number of full time employees in the proposed budget is flat from last year at 6,571 employees, down from a recent high of 6,683 in 2010.
As always, the majority of the General Fund budget recommendation (56%) provides for Public Safety, Justice, and Security, including $253 million set aside for the Sheriff’s Office, Courts, Prosecutor, Public Defender, and other county justice and safety agencies.
The largest portion of the recommended All Funds Budget (46.7%) is earmarked for social services, amounting to $735 million. Administrator Wilson specifically noted efforts to address poverty in our community, such as continued funding for the commissioners People Works program that helps connect county social services clients with job training and well-paid jobs, as well as community partnerships with the Community Shelter Board ($5 million) and the Affordable Housing Trust ($3.1 million) to address the shortage of affordable housing in Central Ohio.
“In Ohio, counties provide the human services safety net for residents who are struggling,” said Administrator Wilson. “Preserving those essential services that our residents have come to rely on is vital, and working to reduce poverty, which is affecting the quality of life in too many neighborhoods, is something that we continue to work on annually.”
Wilson noted that state funding has declined in recent years, including by more than $21 million for 2018. That leaves a hole in the budget, he said, that is not easily filled. Cutting services for county residents by the same amount would be devastating to many, and relying on the county’s cash reserves to make up the difference would imperil the commissioners’ bond rating.
Included in this year’s budget proposal, therefore, is a recommendation that the commissioners consider extending the temporary sales tax increase that was to expire at the end of 2018. This would allow the commissioners to fill the gap left by state funding cuts and advance the construction timetable for the new county corrections center that broke ground earlier this month. Combining the multiple phases of jail construction into one project is expected to save the county more than $50 million in construction costs. The commissioners held the first of three public hearings on this portion of the budget this morning, and will hold further hearings on December 5th and December 19th.
“Protecting the county’s finances is always one of our first priorities,” said Wilson. “Our job was made more difficult this year because of the state revenue cuts, but we are always planning for the future and I think that we have come up with a sound plan in this case that makes strong fiscal sense.”
Elsewhere in Wilson’s presentation he noted recent innovations in county administration, including holding county healthcare cost increases to 4.4%, about half the national average of 8.1%. He also said that the time it takes to hire a new Board of Commissioners employee is down from 37.3 days to 19 days, and that the average miles per gallon achieved by the county’s fleet of motor vehicles has increased by almost 33% in the past 3 years.
Franklin County is part of the fastest growing region in the Midwest, and the largest county in Ohio, home to about 1.3 million residents. The commissioners set the yearly budget not only for their own agencies, but for all of county government, and will preside over public hearings on next year’s budget this afternoon, and on December 5th
, and before voting on a final budget proposal on December 19th
For more information, a copy of the proposed budget, and a schedule of the budget hearings, visit https://budget.franklincountyohio.gov/Budgets/2018