By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Approximately 1,000 county employees will see 3 percent pay raises next year, an upgrade will begin on the county’s 911 system, and plans will proceed for an expansion of the county jail booking area.
Those expenses are part of the $44.6 million in appropriations for 2018 approved Thursday by the Wood County Commissioners. The county appropriations for 2017 totaled $43 million.
“In recognition of our most valuable asset – the people who work daily to provide service to Wood County citizens – we agreed to provide a wage increase of 3 percent to employees of all commissioners’ departments,” a letter signed by the three commissioners stated.
In addition to the commissioners’ departments, the 3 percent raises will also be extended to employees in the prosecutor’s, recorder’s, court security and public defender’s offices. Most other county offices will be given the equivalent funding to be distributed as the elected officials see fit.
The county commissioners have spent the last couple months listening to funding pitches from county offices.
“It certainly takes all of us working together to make this happen,” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said.
“I now appreciate how much work” the county budget entails, Commissioner Ted Bowlus said.
Commissioner Craig LaHote also voted in favor of the appropriations, but was unable to talk because of laryngitis.
Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar praised the reasonable requests made by county officials.
“No one asked for anything unusual,” he said.
Some of the bigger items on the appropriation list include $800,000 for architectural and engineering work that is needed to renovate the booking area at the Wood County Justice Center.
The other major construction project that came up during appropriation discussions – the moving of the county highway garage – did not receive any funding. The possibility of relocating the facility to the county’s East Gypsy Lane complex needs more study, Kalmar said.
The appropriations also include a contract for upgrading the 911 system at the sheriff’s office. The contract is spread over five years, costing just over $1 million. Sharing in this cost are Bowling Green State University ($56,211), Ottawa County ($166,680), and Sandusky County/Clyde ($215,513).
“The upgrade is a significant thing to do,” Kalmar said. “It’s an important thing for citizens.”
The upgrade is necessary because the current system will no longer be supported by the manufacturer. The new system will have enhanced features, such as allowing people to text “911” for emergencies.
The commissioners also continued efforts to rebuild the county’s permanent improvement fund, by setting aside $1.2 million. That funding is used to maintain and improve county owned buildings.
New in 2017, was a shift in security at the courthouse complex, which led to some funding complexities. Court security continues to be provided by the existing court security program, while the security of the courthouse complex was taken over by the sheriff’s office.
The combined budget for both security programs was set at $415,188. To remain within budget in 2018, both departments will have to schedule carefully using part-time staff.
The county budget suffered a hit in 2017 from not being able to collect Medicaid sales tax. That change meant a reduction of $900,000 in sales tax annually, Kalmar said. However, the rest of the county’s sales tax revenue remains healthy, at more than $20 million a year, with the county seeing a significant amount of retail growth over the last decade.