Sales tax changes means cuts to county, Clark County sheriff’s office

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office will likely have to make budget cuts due to changes with sales taxes and some school districts have been concerned it would affect the deputies who patrol schools. But the sheriff’s office says it wants to avoid that but some personnel cuts are likely. Staff photo by Bill Lackey
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The Clark County Sheriff’s Office will likely have to make budget cuts due to changes with sales taxes and some school districts have been concerned it would affect the deputies who patrol schools. But the sheriff’s office says it wants to avoid that but some personnel cuts are likely. Staff photo by Bill Lackey

Clark County faces budget cuts to all departments after changes to sales taxes, including the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

The federal government ended the state’s collection of sale taxes on services from Medicaid managed-care organizations — such as Dayton-based CareSource — as of June 30.

Clark County collected $3.2 million in such sales taxes last year, up from $2.2 million in 2014, according to state data.

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The Medicaid tax began in 2005 and was expanded in both 2009 and 2013. But in 2014, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ruled that applying a sales tax only to managed-care organizations dealing with Medicaid patients wasn’t allowed.

The state stands to lose $558 million in fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2019 — a total of more than $1 billion over two years — and county governments statewide are looking at losing $195 million, according to the Ohio Office of Budget and Management.

Clark County likely will lose close to $1 million for the remainder of this year and $3.1 million next year.

Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said the county’s general fund will be affected the most, which mean every department will face anywhere from 5 to 7 percent in cuts, including the sheriff’s office.

Some superintendents worried that might have meant cuts to the education support officers, the deputies who are dedicated to patrolling Clark County schools.

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“The sheriff’s staff had a discussion with the superintendents of the schools about future funding,” Lohnes said.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office makes up the largest department within the county. Its budget sits at about $15 million.

Lohnes said he was one of the people who pushed for dedicated deputies after he learned about four years ago that they weren’t present in schools.

“We funded two full-time ESOs, that was about $100,000 for two education support officers,” Lohnes said.

The county also paid for the one-time cost for two vehicles, computers in the vehicles, the vest and all the equipment for the officers.

The budget cuts will affect the county’s law enforcement a lot harder than other departments, Clark County Sheriff Deputy Chief Travis Russell said.

“We were advised to look for areas within the sheriff’s office we could save money,” Russell said.

One area discussed was the education support officer program. Out of the seven school districts in the county, none contribute to the program.

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There was a recent meeting between the sheriff’s office and superintendents where money for the program was discussed, which prompted phone calls to Lohnes. The superintendents were concerned the program might go away.

“We’ve only had one meeting. It was very brief and it was to discuss our concerns and what we would like to see happen, with maybe the schools assisting some of the funding and since then I haven’t heard anything back from the superintendents,” Russell said.

He said his office is looking for other ways to mend the deficit his department will face.

“We are actively looking for grants. Our grant writer has done some extensive research into that, along with the assistance from both ESOs,” Russell said.

Tecumseh Local School District Norm Glismann said the loss would be felt by everyone and that the deputies in the schools are a positive.

“If this person had to do other things that means they couldn’t do some proactive things with students and families,” Glismann said.

The sheriff’s office doesn’t want to cut the school program, Russell said, but it’s likely the sheriff’s office will have to cut some personnel.

“We are doing everything that we can do to avoid that,” he said. “That’s why we are looking at creative ways of financing programs like the ESOs.”

Lohnes said he doesn’t want the cuts to affect safety and doesn’t want to see the school deputies cut.

“They have changed the culture of the way county schools approach security,” he said.

BY THE NUMBERS

$558 million : How much the State of Ohio will lose after the loss of Medicaid funding in 2018.

$3.1 million: Clark County’s loss of funding due to Medicaid

$15 million: Clark County Sheriff’s Office 2017 budget