Last updated: December 16. 2013 10:50AM - 868 Views
WILLIAM LANEY wlaney@civitasmedia.com

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LIMA — Despite sales tax revenue increases this year in Allen, Auglaize and Putnam counties, the three county auditors plan to take a different approach to certifying the amount available to be spent by the commissioners in 2014.

Allen County Auditor Rhonda Eddy Stienecker plans to certify the same amount in 2014 as she did in 2013 because the difference is so slight.

“We have seen a slight increase, but I wish it was a little bit more because sales tax accounts for 60 percent of our entire general fund budget,” Eddy Stienecker said, noting she will certify about $25 million overall and $15 million in sales tax revenue. “With all the cuts in state funding, we monitor the sales tax very closely.”

She said in Allen County, sales tax revenue climbed to $15.47 million in 2013 with $14.7 million going to the general fund, while in 2012 sales tax revenue totaled $15.2 million with $14.43 million going to the general fund. She anticipates collecting the same amount in sales tax in 2014 as collected in 2013.

“I am not going to increase the budget for the general fund because they don’t really have any justification for that,” Eddy Stienecker said. “If we have a little bit extra then great, I think it would be irresponsible to increase it at this point anymore than what we are at right now.”

The Allen County commissioners recently approved general fund expenditures of $25.37 million.

The county auditor certifies an amount that the commissioners can appropriate for next year’s budget based on anticipated revenue from sales tax, property tax, Local Government Funds, charges for services and other sources of income collected throughout the year.

She said since the Great Recession of 2008, sales tax has increased slightly each year beginning with 2009. In 2011, an increase in sales tax revenue included expanding the revenue source from a sales tax on goods sold to include sales tax on some services.

In Allen County, the sales tax is 6.75 percent with the state collecting 5.5 percent. The state’s percentage climbed 0.25 percent in September. In Auglaize County, the sales tax is now 7.25 percent.

Based on about $500,000 in increased sales tax revenue in 2013, Auglaize County Auditor Janet Schuler plans to increase the amount she certifies in 2014 but not by much.

Auglaize County collected $8.18 million in 2013, an increase of about $500,000 from the $7.62 million collected in 2012.

“I think our numbers are helped by Kohl’s and Lowe’s and any type of retail,” Schuler said. “From 2012 to 2013, I don’t think we can credit a new store for the increase, but repeat customers are patronizing those stores more and the overall economy is getting better.

“Ever since 2009, I have been hestitant to certify or let them appropriate all of the revenue and I am afraid to overestimate revenues so I am certifying $696,000 for the permanent-improvement fund and another $7 million for the general fund,” she said. “As you can see, every year sales tax revenue goes up but I try to be conservative.”

Last year, the commissioners did not even appropriate all that she certified so the general fund cash carryover is healthy, she said. The commissioners are trying to rebuild their permanent-improvement fund after spending about $8 million to renovate the Auglaize County Courthouse.

Putnam County Auditor Robert Benroth intends to slash the amount he plans to certify, only because the commissioners have elected to let a five-year, 0.25 percent sales tax expire and therefore less will be collected.

Benroth said he intends to certify only $3.9 million for 2014, which is a decrease from the $4 million he certified in 2013.

Putnam County has a 1 percent sales tax for general fund revenue and 0.25 percent for the jail and 0.25 percent for general operations. Since the General Assembly approved a 0.25 percent sales tax increase, which went into place in September, the commissioners have elected to let the 0.25 percent for general operations to expire.

The0.25 percent brought in about $827,000.

Putnam County will collect $5.02 million in 2013. It collected $4.97 million in 2012.

“We have just gotten these numbers and I haven’t gone over them with the commissioners, but as far as our budget it is still balanced,” Benroth said. “Actually, there is approximately a $600,000 cushion and that is without this 0.25 percent.

“We are pretty happy about that and the fact we can give back to the taxpayers and take that 0.25 percent off like we promised,” he said. “We are running leaner, but still providing the same services and lowering the sales tax in the meantime.”

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