COVID-19 economic effects prompt range of county government responses

Montgomery County commissioners declared a fiscal emergency and decided on $17 million in budget cuts. “We’ve been through this before in 2007 and 2008 when we had a great tsunami that hit us with the Great Recession,” Montgomery County Commission President Judy Dodge said. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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Montgomery County commissioners declared a fiscal emergency and decided on $17 million in budget cuts. “We’ve been through this before in 2007 and 2008 when we had a great tsunami that hit us with the Great Recession,” Montgomery County Commission President Judy Dodge said. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Some county governments in the Miami Valley have made millions in budget cuts in anticipation of financial repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, while others are taking a wait-see approach.

Montgomery County is moving forward with $17.9 million in spending reductions to get ahead of an expected loss of $20 million in tax revenues, while Clark County said it was cutting $4.7 million from its general fund budget.

Greene, Warren and Miami counties have curtailed things like travel or new hires, while continuing to gauge how bad the economy will get before restrictions are lifted and some state of normalcy returns.

“We’re meeting with the auditor. We are going to continue to have discussions on where to go from here,” Miami County Commission President Jack Evans said Thursday during a break in their weekly meeting.

While new projects have been put on hold, Evans said the county was moving ahead with about $5 million in ongoing work, including Prouty Plaza on Troy’s Public Square and security cameras for county facilities.

State sales tax distributions were down for the month, but remain up for the year, Evans added.

Evans also noted pressure on Gov. Mike DeWine to get back to business.

“We’ll have to see how that goes,” he said.

RELATED: Cash flow key to post-crisis economic recovery

Counties have passed resolutions in response to the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, which expands the Family Medical Leave Act, adding up to 10 additional weeks of paid family and medical leave at two-thirds regular pay for employees who need to stay home to watch children out of school or without day-care providers due to COVID-19.

At this point, officials indicated it was unlikely this would be used by county employees.

“Right now nothing as we are continuing to pay our staff regular wages,” Warren County Administrator Tiffany Zindel said.

On Thursday, Greene County commissioners were expected add this potential benefit.

“I do not anticipate many employees taking advantage of the new law provisions. Our employees have paid leave options that will allow them to be fully compensated for their time off,” Administrator Brandon Huddleson said before the meeting.

RELATED: Montgomery County slashes $17.9 million from budget due to coronavirus concerns

Earlier this month, Montgomery County commissioners declared a fiscal emergency and decided on major budget cuts.

“We’ve been through this before in 2007 and 2008 when we had a great tsunami that hit us with the Great Recession,” Montgomery County Commission President Judy Dodge said.

Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert said the county anticipated losses in fees as well as sales, real estate and casino tax collections.

A hiring freeze is projected to account for about $7 million of the cuts from the county’s $181 million general fund budget. Other cuts are on strategic community projects and grants, alternatives to incarceration, Economic Development and Government Equity program grants, security, county jail and other building improvements.

“Whether you’re a business or government, we’re all faced with very difficult decisions coming at us,” Colbert said.

RELATED: Clark County making millions in COVID-19 cuts

Clark County commissioners indicated budget cuts would come from freezes on hiring, travel, training and education. Staff was to continue only essential spending. The budget was to be reviewed for up to 25 percent in cuts.

“This is a difficult time for so many in our community, and it’s no different in local government,” Clark County Commission President Melanie Flax Wilt said in a statement. “We’re making proactive and practical decisions to reduce the long-term impact this could have on our team members and the residents they serve.”

In Warren County, staff are expected to hold off on non-essential hiring and purchasing.

“We have not made any cuts,” Zindel said. “A determination will be made, if needed, mid-May if actual cuts are required.”

Greene County froze hiring under the commissioners in mid-March.

Like other counties, “we cannot dictate to other elected officials when it comes to hiring,” Brandon Huddleson, Greene County administrator, said.

“We have not made any budget cuts at this time,” Huddleson added via email. “We will not know if budget reductions are necessary until we can understand the full impact to our revenue sources. Greene County went into this pandemic in a strong financial position thanks to many years of conservative budget practices. We are hopeful that our reserves will see us through.”

Miami and Warren county officials expressed similar optimism about their financial reserves carrying them through the downturn.

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