The Delaware County commissioners had two budgets in front of them at their Dec. 22 meeting.

The Delaware County commissioners had two budgets in front of them at their Dec. 22 meeting.

One meant the loss of several county jobs, but balanced revenues against expenditures, while the other protected all county jobs but relied on the "rainy day" fund to pay for them.

The lame-duck commission chose the latter with Jim Ward and Glenn Evans voting for the budget and Kris Jordan voting against it.

The $53.5-million budget exceeds expected revenues for 2009 by nearly $6-million. The shortfall will come out of cash reserves, leaving it with a balance of about $2.5-million at the beginning of 2010.

County administrator Dave Cannon told the commissioners they needed to decide what was more important, balancing the budget or reducing services.
"You've done a heck of a job given what you have to work with," Commissioner Jim Ward told Cannon. "I don't want to lay anybody off. ... I don't think that the budget will dip into the reserves as much as you think."

Jordan disagreed.

"We need to pass a balanced budget. ... We don't need to start acting like the federal government. ... We need to make the tough decisions now before we have to in one or two years. Other counties around us are making substantial cuts. ... The world isn't coming to an end for those counties," he said.

Evans said he agreed with both men, that it comes down to fiscal responsibility versus providing services but he is "cautiously optimistic" that the economy will turn around.

"We've reduced property taxes, and I don't see what's wrong with that (dipping into the reserves)," Ward said, referring to the property tax reductions the commission voted for earlier this year because of the cash reserve fund. "Now is the time to use some of those reserves ... not all of them ... but as much as Dave (Cannon) thinks we will need."

"America has a spending problem," Jordan said. "I think everyone from the family to the federal government needs to control wasteful spending."

The next commission may have to come in and reverse the property tax rollback if the economic downturn continues, he said.

"I don't want to put future boards in that position," Jordan said.

While the passed budget protects jobs, it doesn't allow any pay raises except for employees covered by union contracts. It does include 3-percent raises for four employees in the administrative offices who have taken on extra duties this year, when several administrative positions went unfilled. Cannon agreed to a $3,300 cut in his base salary to fund the raises.

The contracts for most of the sheriff's employees guarantee 3 percent pay raises through 2010.

The sheriff's budget is set and Sheriff Walter Davis will have to find money within that budget to fund those raises, the commissioners said. The collective bargaining units for the county's sewer treatment workers and emergency medical services workers are currently negotiating new contracts.

Also Dec. 22, the commissioners approved $2-million to purchase a building at 7991 U.S. Route 23 at the Orange Road intersection in Lewis Center as the new home for the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

The funds for the buy will come from the board's budget and not from the county's general fund. Renovations are expected to cost $3-million, according to board superintendent Bob Morgan. He estimated it would cost up to $10-million to build a new center.

The location, he said, is closer to the people the center serves.

While 38 percent of those they serve come from the city of Delaware, 51.6 percent come from Plain City, Shawnee Hills, Dublin, Powell, Lewis Center, Columbus, Galena, Westerville and Johnstown, he said.

Demand for the center's services increases by 75 percent every five years. The center now serves 1,600 individuals and their families, Morgan wrote in a report to the commissioners.

The move will allow the board to combine the early intervention and support administration staff in one location.

Also at the meeting, commissioners approved a contract for $59,150 with L. Robert Kimball & Associates for consulting services at the county 911 center.

The company will assist the center as it moves forward with consolidation and will also assist in the search for a new director.