Taylor Places Scioto County in Fiscal Emergency

Filed under: Scioto County — tkm August 19, 2009 @ 10:0 am

August 19th, 2009 – PRESS RELEASE

Taylor Places Scioto County in Fiscal Emergency

Scioto County – Auditor of State Mary Taylor today announced a fiscal emergency in Scioto County. Her determination was made following the results of a fiscal analysis conducted by the Auditor of State that revealed a combined county fund deficit of more than $3.5 million as of June 30, 2009. The deficit is anticipated to increase unless county officials develop and implement a successful financial recovery plan.

“This is very serious. Ultimately it means that, based on current conditions, Scioto County may not be able to pay its bills,” Taylor said. “We have been communicating with county officials for nearly two years hoping to avoid this declaration today, but as economic conditions worsen and tough choices avoided, this declaration of fiscal emergency is the first step to restoring fiscal stability in Scioto County.”

Scioto County is the first county in Ohio’s history to receive a fiscal emergency designation, but its financial troubles are not new. The county first began experiencing a general fund deficit in 2006. Since that time, three additional funds have gone into the red. As of June 30, 2009, Scioto County had fund deficits totaling $3,528,482.

The fiscal emergency declaration will result in the appointments of a seven-member state commission to help Scioto County regain financial stability. The commission will be responsible for approving the county’s financial recovery plan that identifies solutions for eliminating deficits outlined in the Auditor of State’s fiscal analysis. The plan should also balance the budget and present strategies to avoid future deficits. The plan must be approved by the county and submitted to the commission within 120 days of the commission’s first meeting.

Taylor says her office will assist Scioto County officials as they work through their plan for financial recovery. The Auditor of State’s Local Government Services section will also help county officials identify solutions to restore the county’s financial well-being and improve accountability to local taxpayers.

A copy of the full fiscal analysis is available online at www.auditor.state.oh.us or read the pdf @ Scioto County, Ohio
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State auditor: Scioto County is in financial trouble
Wednesday, August 19, 2009 9:22 AM
By Randy Ludlow
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Scioto County is beyond broke.

In the first declaration of its kind for an Ohio county, Auditor Mary Taylor announced this morning that her office had placed Scioto County in fiscal emergency.

The county’s combined fund deficit stood at $3.5 million on June 30 and may continue to tick upward unless county officials rein in spending, she said.

“This is very serious. Ultimately it means that, based on current conditions, Scioto County may not be able to pay its bills,” Taylor said in a statement.

“We have been communicating with county officials for nearly two years hoping to avoid this declaration today, but as economic conditions worsen and tough choices avoided, this declaration of fiscal emergency is the first step to restoring fiscal stability in Scioto County.”

The Ohio River county’s fiscal woes can be traced to 2006, when the county ran a general-fund deficit. Since then, three more funds also developed red ink.

The fiscal emergency declaration will result in the appointment of a seven-member state commission to help nurse the county back to financial health.

The commission will quickly develop a financial bailout plan in cooperation with the county commissioners.

Commissioner Thomas Reiser said this morning that the county had cut spending by about $1 million annually while reducing staff and employees’ work hours, but that it “obviously was not enough.”
“We thought 2009 was the year that we were going to make a comeback. When the economy fell flat, that reduced our revenue by close to a million dollars, and it just put us back in the situation we were in,” he said.

Reiser attributed part of the county’s problems to an influx of criminals and a new jail that proved expensive to build, operate and staff. The county juvenile detention center also has been expensive to operate.

About $2.8 million of the county’s deficit comes from the general fund, the county’s main source of spending, while the juvenile jail is running a $754,124 deficit.

Cities and villages have been placed in fiscal emergency, with the current roster numbering 17, but Scioto is the first county to make the list.

Counties, municipalities and school districts have been struggling to provide services and pay their bills amid a lingering recession that has depressed tax revenues amid layoffs, home foreclosures and curtailed consumer spending.

While other counties are confronting financial problems, none appears close to joining Scioto in fiscal emergency, Taylor said.

rludlow@dispatch.com
Dispatch reporter Tom Knox contributed to this story.