Dropsey commissioners

Richland County Auditor Pat Dropsey meets with county commissioners on Tuesday morning.

MANSFIELD -- Richland County commissioners on Tuesday voted to set aside $3.2 million in its American Rescue Plan Act funds to make up for projected revenue lost in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

County Auditor Pat Dropsey met with commissioners on Tuesday and explained the process used by the federal government in determining what percentage of ARPA funds can be used for revenue replacement.

The move allows commissioners broader leeway in determining how to spend the projected lost revenue, a part of the overall $23.4 million the county will receive in ARPA funds.

The county has received half of the funds and will get the second half in 2022.

It's the same step the City of Mansfield took last week when council approved setting aside $5 million in revenue replacement for future usage. Mayor Tim Theaker said no decisions had been made on spending that money, but said a portion may be used to help balance the city budget in 2022.

Richland County commissioners said no decisions had been made on how to use the $3.2 million.

They did say some may be allocated to county Engineer Adam Gove for road repair efforts given the fact the engineering department lost about $500,000 in 2020 in gas tax revenue as people drove less.

"We're not spending the money yet," Commissioner Tony Vero said. "What this allows us to do is take a revenue loss, according to the federal guidelines."

In determining the amount under federal guidelines, Dropsey had to look back at overall county revenues in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Dropsey had to subtract certain revenue streams, including areas where the county collects money for other government agencies, i.e. property taxes; trust funds; and inter-government funds, which came to the county through grants, etc.

Dropsey said he had to determine the county's average annual growth rate, which he determined to be 1.6 percent over the last three years. The federal government, in ARPA, allows for a projection of 4.1 percent annual growth.

After subtracting revenues not allowed as part of the federal calculation, Dropsey said Richland County had revenue of $101.2 million in 2020. He said the federal guidelines indicated the county, without the impact of the pandemic, would have had $104.4 million in revenue, creating the $3.2 million in lost revenue.

Commissioners said the calculation made sense.

"We did OK. We made a little bit more on the sales tax side, but the way were were trending we would have done significantly better. We know Adam Gove lost around $500,000 as a result of the pandemic," Vero said.

"(Lost) casino revenue, interest earnings. I'm actually going to compliment the guidelines in that respect. The economy (before the pandemic) was strong. We were growing. We were on pace to have a really good year (in 2020). While we made a little bit of money, we would have made ... that ($104 million) sounds about right," Vero said.

Banks echoed no spending decisions had been made regarding the $3.2 million.

"We haven't determined where it's all going to go," Banks said. "Since the engineer, through the gas tax, lost more than anybody else, we want make him whole again. And then we can do some things with safety services, but we want to spend it as best we can. So we're going to do some research on that."

Commissioners authorized $1 million of general ARPA money last week for targeted grants to local businesses  involved in entertainment, lodging/tourism and the food and beverage industry.

Those grants, ranging from $10,000 to $30,000, will be administered through a program operated by the Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development, beginning in mid-October.

The three commissioners said they would attend a daylong meeting Wednesday with the County Commissioners Association of Ohio to learn more about ARPA spending guidelines.

Vero said the local board has an understanding of the U.S. Treasury Department's "interim, final" guidelines, but would use the meeting through CCAO "fill the gaps and get a little more finite."

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"

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