Delaware County commissioners Dec. 20 approved what was described as a fiscally responsible 2019 budget that includes only modest spending increases.

The budget includes $113.2 million for general-fund expenditures -- a 4.3 percent increase over 2018 -- that will allow for modest staff increases and a 3 percent raise for nonunion employees, a county press release said.

Brad Lutz, the county's director of business operations and financial management, told commissioners that despite "almost exponential growth," staff increases will be small, "thanks to the elected officials, department heads and managers embracing efficiency and effectiveness."

If not for the general fund including road maintenance as an operating expense, he said, the general fund would show only a 0.1 percent increase.

"The county as a whole," he said, "has embraced a model that the county is able to do more with the current staffing thanks to increased use of technology, modern management techniques and evaluating positions as they come open, to determine if they are necessary going forward or can be modified to help the (county) and therefore the citizens in new ways."

Road infrastructure represents the largest capital expenditures in the budget, he said.

"There's no shortage of projects in the county due to the increased population and new traffic patterns created by the significant amount of new commercial and residential development," he said.

The county's staff and operations have "resulted in a number of county buildings being stretched to capacity," Lutz said.

"To address these concerns, the county is investing in the historic courthouse, to renovate the existing courtrooms and related offices into offices that can be used by multiple agencies," he said.

The county also is scheduled to take possession of the former Delaware Area Career Center North Campus -- on 64 acres off state Route 521 in Brown Township -- in 2019. Its purchase also is reflected in the budget, Lutz said.

That location "will be renovated to allow a number of related agencies to move into (one) building, creating a one-stop shop of sorts for citizens of the county, particularly those dealing with development," he said.

Commissioner Gary Merrell said the budget helps the county meet its goal of fiscal responsibility that protects the taxpayers' interests and ensures public dollars are invested properly.

The county will experience more growth during the next 10 to 20 years, he said, and "a lot of stress (will be) put on us if we don't address the needs now."

If such steps aren't taken now, "we're going to be forced to address them later, and maybe not in the best time frame," Merrell said.

Commissioner Jeff Benton thanked department heads and fiscal staff for creating "a very disciplined budget" with "modest increases in staffing and salary and benefit costs."

The press release said the budget also will fund improvements to the county jail complex. The historic courthouse will house the commissioners' offices and a hearing room, as well as offices for the county's economic development and human-resources departments, the veterans service commission and the law library.

The former DACC campus will house agencies including the engineer's office, the sheriff's office, the regional sewer district, the code compliance department, the Delaware County Regional Planning Commission, the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District and the Ohio State University Extension Service, the release said.

Merrell and Benton approved the budget with a 2-0 vote. Commissioner Barb Lewis was absent.

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews