LISBON, Ohio (WKBN) – Commissioners expect Columbiana County will lose a significant chunk of money in 2017.
They held their final meeting of the year Friday morning, facing budget cuts across the board for all departments.
Commissioner Mike Halleck said the county will lose about $800,000 in sales tax revenue, which could be as high as 2.2 percent next year.
According to commissioners, the blame is two-fold.
One cause is the elimination of Ohio’s Medicaid tax, which now requires local counties to pay for coverage on their own.
Another factor is the lost revenue that had been generated during the recent oil and gas boom, but has fallen off with fewer wells drilled and pipelines built.
“Those two things in themselves drove our sales tax because people had money that normally didn’t have money to buy that new car, new tires or whatever,” Halleck said.
The county is one of few in Ohio without a property tax, relying entirely on revenue from the sale of goods.
Next year’s budget is just $18.5 million and includes a 6 percent cut for all departments. Compare that to Mahoning County’s $62 million budget.
Columbiana County commissioners said the budget could be cut even further in 2018.
“I’m hoping that the State of Ohio recognizes that we need some help through the loss of this Medicaid tax,” Commissioner Tim Weigle said.
In the meantime, commissioners are also hoping to see a return of the energy industry. Right now, there’s only one well being drilled in the county. However, a gas-fired electric power plant, similar to one under construction in Lordstown, has been proposed for the Wellsville area.
There’s also talk of a huge new gas pipeline stretching from a processing plant in Hanoverton all the way to Canada, that could be announced next year.
“As we see these pipelines come into Columbiana County and we can flow the gas back out, I think you’re gonna start to see drill rigs reappear,” Weigle said.
Halleck said they’ll have more information about oil and gas projects once they get into the third quarter.
“Fortunately, this board, the last few years, have been good stewards and we have some rainy day preparations,” he said. “We’re confident that we’re gonna be able to work this out, but it’s gonna take a lot of patience.”
Until then, commissioners said they’re hoping the rumors they keep hearing are good ones.