This morning, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the county’s 2018 budget, which County Administrator Kenneth N. Wilson says will keep the county on a stable, sustainable fiscal path for the foreseeable future. “The approximately $1.6 billion county budget is aimed at maintaining the county’s double Triple-A bond rating, funding ongoing county initiatives and upcoming infrastructure, and meeting the growing needs of a growing populous,” said Wilson.
The commissioners oversee 14 county agencies directly, and set the budget for all other agencies and elected offices as well. Each year, the county budget is a reflection of the board of commissioners’ priorities and county administration’s predictions about the year to come. Core principles of this board of commissioners include Responsive Government, Community Safety, Economic Development, Supportive Human Services, and Good Stewardship of the Environment.
As always, the largest portion of the All Funds budget, which includes state and federal pass-through money, is earmarked for social services for the county’s residents. Most of the General Fund budget, which is made up of local taxes and fees, provides for Public Safety, Justice, and Security, including more than $250 million set aside for the Sheriff’s Office, Courts, Prosecutor, Public Defender, and other justice and safety agencies.
Before the commissioners voted, Board President John O’Grady took a moment to reflect on the past 12 months. “Two thousand seventeen has been a challenging year,” said O’Grady. “But it’s also been one that I think we in county government can be proud of. We got the Senior Options levy passed, introduced the Franklin County Opiate Action Plan, hosted 3,000 county officials from around the nation at the National Association of Counties annual conference, and broke ground on a brand new corrections center. With this forward-looking budget, I’m sure that 2018 is going to be equally bright.”
Highlights of the budget include funding for a new program to help low-income and under-represented residents transition to careers in the building trades, and more than $8 million for the Community Shelter Board and Affordable Housing Trust to help thousands of Franklin County families to access affordable housing. The budget also includes $20 million for addiction services provided by the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County and an additional $6 million to begin implementation of the Opiate Action Plan.
“So many residents rely on the county’s social safety net services and we’re focused on helping them get on their feet,” said Commissioner Marilyn Brown. “This budget also looks ahead to encourage growth for good-paying jobs and to provide reliable infrastructure in a smart, efficient way.”
Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce noted that Franklin County is part of the fastest growing region in the Midwest, and is now the largest county in Ohio. “We’re always looking ahead for ways to support the right kind of growth so that it’s sustainable,” said Boyce. “Franklin County is a great place to both build a business and raise a family.”
Also included as part of the budget this year was a proposal to extend the temporary sales tax rate increase that was set to expire at the end of next year. County administration informed the commissioners during the budget proposal last month that the county faced some difficult choices due in large part to declining funding from the State of Ohio. Administrator Wilson said in November that an additional state cut of $21 million next year would leave a hole in the budget that would not easily be filled. “Cutting services by that amount would be devastating to many,” said Wilson. “And relying on cash reserves to make up the difference, over time would imperil the county’s bond rating.”
Wilson and County Administration devised a sound financial plan which relies upon a continuation of the sales tax at the current rate in order to fill the gap left by the declining state funding, preserve investments in health and human services safety net initiatives, promote ongoing economic development efforts, advance the construction of the county’s new correctional center in order to realize $50 million in savings there, and to fund the construction with sales tax-backed bonds. The commissioners held three open meetings to hear testimony from the public before voting to accept the proposal this morning.
You can see the full 2018 county budget online at https://budget.franklincountyohio.gov/Budgets/2018