YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – What a difference a year makes.
After starting 2015 with optimism over the oil and gas industry, Mahoning County Auditor Ralph Meacham admits the Valley is now feeling the effects of the industry’s slow-down.
In his ‘state of the county’ presentation Monday, Meacham said those struggles could be a sign of things to come.
“It’s another thing we have to make sure that the county is cognizant of,” Meacham said. “The increases we thought in production, in employment have tapered off, and we have to respond to that.”
Meacham says although county government has 21% fewer employees than it did in 2009, wages jumped three-quarters of a million dollars from 2013 to 2014, and while sales tax revenues have grown the last several years, population is expected to decrease another 9,000 in the county by 2020.
Meacham told commissioners investment experts are urging county leaders to come up with both short- and long-term plans covering everything from paying for healthcare to maintaining county buildings, including Oakhill Renaissance Place, which is less than half-occupied.
“It’s a simple fact…We’ve talked before, it’s an asset of the county,” Meacham said of Oak Hill. “We have to try to utilize that asset to its fullest extent possible.”
For their part, commissioners are planning to study how many employees work in different departments and how much they’re paid, according to Commissioner Carol Righetti.