The word Union County commissioners and office holders should keep in mind for this fiscal year is "maintain," according to the county's financial auditing contractor.

The word Union County commissioners and office holders should keep in mind for this fiscal year is "maintain," according to the county's financial auditing contractor.

Following an analysis of the county's appropriations for fiscal year 2010 earlier this month, Bob Fry recently presented what he believes the county can expect to receive in income for FY 2011. While some sources of funding will be hard to anticipate because of changeover in the Statehouse, others can be predicted fairly dependably. And Fry says most of those revenue sources are expected to decrease in 2011.

"I just want to impress upon you that the word should be 'maintain' for the county," Fry said. "Because if you maintain (the same spending) as you did last year, you're going to end up even for the year in my projection."

According to Fry's figures, Union County is expected to receive $17.4-million in revenues in 2011, including transfers. This is down 1.3-percent from last year's figures, which amounted to $17.63-million. Fry's numbers vary slightly from the county auditor's projections (the auditor projects revenues of $16.3-million in 2011, compared to $16.69-million in 2010), because the auditor is required to estimate all those figures as conservatively as possible, county commissioners have said.

General property tax revenues are expected to keep dwindling for the county, according to Fry. Projections for property tax revenues for 2011 are down 4.1-percent from last year, at $4.18-million compared to $4.35-million in 2010.

"We've lost half a million dollars over the last two years in property tax," Fry said. "But I do think that's going to slow down."

Other areas that are projected to see significant decreases in revenue this year are grants and local government taxes. Grants are expected to come in at $600,000, 55.3-percent down from $932,000 in 2010, while local government taxes are expected to come in at $600,000, down 27.6 percent from $766,000 in 2010.

"One of the reasons is that with Gov. (John) Kasich, we don't know where he's going to cut," Fry said. "With the economy, we're hoping that the sales tax (revenues) get increased, but with high gas prices and everything else, are people really going to go out and spend money?"

Commissioner Gary Lee said the changes in state funding could be difficult to anticipate.

"I accept these projections I think they're pretty much in line with my expectations," Lee said. "What I'm most concerned about is that we may have new expenses to try to maintain current programs that are now funded by the state, and those may be critical programs. I think that's our real wild card in the coming two years."

Lee compared that possibility to the hypothetical situation of the commissioners passing on all of their clerical expenses to their office holders.

"But you're robbing Peter to pay Paul," Lee said. "The difference is, the state is going to proceed as if that's the way to do it, that it isn't robbing Peter to pay Paul... and what are we going to be stuck with?"

Fry was more hopeful in his projections of county sales tax income, which he estimated for 2011 at $7.4-million, up 3.8-percent from last year's figure of $7.1-million.

"I'm using that based off the figures for the holiday season, which was up four percent spending in retail," Fry said. "And I think that cars are going to be a big factor this year the average age of a car right now is about eight years, and people are going to have to start replacing their cars. The people working today, I think, will have a job (in 2011) I think that with the layoffs that have happened already, the companies are down to where they want to be, and then they'll start hiring."

Fry said that ultimately, he believes the recession the country has been experiencing may be drawing to a close.

"I think that the worst of the recession is over," Fry said. "I think people almost have to go out and spend more money, because of the things they've been putting off for the past couple years."