Jefferson County tightens belt

STEUBENVILLE – Jefferson County commissioners on Thursday said they are having difficulty whittling down the county budget to match revenue.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said there was a $700,000 carryover from 2013, a lesser amount than in previous years. The commissioners had carryovers closer to $1 million in the past several years.

County Commissioner David Maple said the commissioners have to cut about $700,000 in general fund budget requests from departments.

“As we look at finalizing the budget, there will have to be significant cuts with what the departments submitted. We are going to have more trouble than originally thought,” he said.

Graham said the budget would balance if departments submitted a budget based on what was spent in 2013. Graham said departments won’t be able to get much of a requested increase.

Graham and Maple both said they have cut $300,000 from the requested amounts but are having difficulty in making the rest of the $400,000 needed in reductions.

Commissioners also approved a resolution placing a renewal of a levy and an increase on the May 6 primary election ballot to fund the operations of senior services in the county.

The renewal of the current 1-mill levy and an increase of 0.2 mill is needed to provide meals and transportation services to senior citizens throughout the county, according to Judy Owings, Prime Time Office on Aging director.

Owings said increased food and fuel costs have forced the agency to ask for the additional money. She said there is a 200-person waiting list for meals. Other services have been cut during the past couple of years so the agency can focus on meals and transportation, the core services, Owings said.

She noted the current 1-mill levy costs the owner of a $50,000 home $4.20 a month. The increase would result in a monthly cost of $5, an increase of $9.60 a year.

In other matters, Graham presented a copy of a resolution provided by the County Commissioners’ Association of Ohio for a lodging tax in areas of the county outside Steubenville. The resolution was given to the county prosecutor’s office for review.

Graham said the lodging tax will be placed on hotels, motels and bed and breakfast facilities. Steubenville has its own lodging tax.

The lodging tax can be up to 6 percent.

He said revenue from the tax will benefit a convention and visitors bureau and townships.

County Commissioner Tom Gentile asked Shannan Gosbin, county water and sewer department director, to begin looking at a study to replace water lines in Bergholz. The county years ago took over the village’s water system but the pipes are old and leaking. Gosbin reported there were six water leaks in the county system last week, with five being in Bergholz. Some of the leaks happened on 2-inch lines. Gentile said a minimum of a 6-inch line is needed for fire hydrants.

Commissioners also:

– Approved attorney fees for indigent criminal defendants for January totaling $28,158, the lowest amount in several months.

– Approved an amendment to the prevention, retention and contingency plan for the county’s job and family services department which will provide cash rewards for a person maintaining employment under the Ohio Works First program. There are about 140 persons in the program in the county. A person working at least 20 hours per week at federal minimum wage can receive a cash lump sum of $1,000 if they are employed and off the state benefit program for 90 days. A $500 incentive can be made if the person is off the program and employed for 180 days.

– Approved the advertising for road signs for the county engineer’s department. County Engineer James Branagan said the Federal Highway Administration will fund 80 percent of the estimated cost of $24,736 for the signs. The local share will be $4,947. Branagan said county highway department crews will install the signs. This is the second grant for road signs received by the county engineer’s department.