MANSFIELD -- It's not unusual for mid-year department budget requests to exceed projected revenues in Richland County.
But with sales tax revenue flatlined due to inflation at a 40-year high, county commissioners expressed caution on Thursday.
"I don't think (initial 2023 expense) requests are out of the ordinary, but with the way the economy is trending, barring any changes, we will have some tough decisions to make this fall," Commissioner Tony Vero said.
Commissioner Darrell Banks quickly replied, "Yes, we are."
General fund initial requests for 2023 totaled $43,787,686.82, commissioners said during a budget hearing. That's an increase of about 9.5 percent over the revenue commissioners estimated for 2022 -- $39,996,24.20.
Commissioner Darrell Banks said budget requests from elected officials and department requests usually start about about $4 million ahead of the year previous. A year ago, mid-year budget requests totaled about $41 million.
The difference this year is a county sales tax revenue that has slowed due to an inflation rate that hit 8.6 percent in May, a four-decade high, including gas prices that have topped $5 per gallon locally for the first time.
Vero said this week it appears the sales tax revenue received in July -- for sales in March -- will drop below last year's revenue year-to-date. Sales tax is the single highest general fund revenue driver in county government.
On Thursday, commissioners said overall county revenues, including all funding streams, are expected to only be up about 1.6 percent in 2022, as compared to 2021.
If those figures hold, commissioners will have to trim requested expenses by almost $4 million when finalizing budgets this fall.
Commissioners said none of the requested budget increases were out of the ordinary.
"The Juvenile Court did request 3 percent (pay) increases across the board, including for their highest-paid staff members," Vero said.
"We have had discussions there, but it doesn't look at this time that the court has changed its prior methodology in determining wages," he said.
Commissioners and Juvenile Court Judge Steve McKinley had a documented disagreement in May regarding salaries paid to court employees.
Also on Tuesday, commissioners discussed last week's power outages after a tornado and strong thunderstorms raked north central Ohio.
Commissioners approved an emergency overtime request for the county's wastewater management department for work related to the outages.
Vero said he would be sending damage assessment forms to county Engineer Adam Gove and townships. He said local governments can submit information that could lead to financial assistance from the state emergency management office.
Overall, commissioners said they were satisfied with power restoration efforts by FirstEnergy and AEP Ohio, the two companies that supply electricity to most county residents.
"I think they did the best they could," Commissioner Cliff Mears said. "I have no reason to think otherwise."