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Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Auglaize sales tax income at record high

By Amy Kronenberger
WAPAKONETA - Sales tax revenue in Auglaize County reached an all-time high in 2011, eclipsing the previous high in 2008.
The county collected $7.1 million in 2011, topping 2008's collection of $7.03 million. Collection in 2009 dropped to $6.3 million and rose to $6.5 million in 2010.
"Taxes are doing better than ever," commissioner John Bergman said during Tuesday's county officials meeting. "2011 finally eclipsed 2008, which was our banner year."
Auditor Janet Schuler said she believes it has to do with the new Kohl's department store in St. Marys and other new businesses in the county.
The county receives sales taxes two months after they are collected. Schuler said the county collected $185,814 in September; Kohl's opened at the end of that month. Tax revenue increased to $190,568 in October and $212,929 in November.
October's collected taxes increased $17,176 from October 2010, and November's collection was up $34,680 from the same month in 2010. September revenue only increased $2,992 from 2010 to 2011.
"Some people think new businesses don't have that big of an impact, but sales taxes jumped when Walmart and Lowes opened, too," Schuler said.
In 2009 and 2010, all of the sales tax revenue went into the general fund. Prior to 2009 and in 2011, commissioners put $40,000 into the permanent improvement fund to help pay for the new administrative building and courthouse renovations, Schuler said.
In each of the first six months of this year, commissioners will put $80,000 into the permanent improvement fund to fund the remaining courthouse renovations.
"After six months, I don't know what they'll do," Schuler said. "They may start putting it all in the general fund again, or they may start saving for another project."
Also at Tuesday's meeting, county engineer Doug Reinhart said the county is saving money by using less salt.
"I hope I don't jinx it by saying this, but we're having one of the mildest winters," he said.
Up to Jan. 1, the county had saved $60,000 over the same time period as last year between salt usage and the cost of diesel fuel. Only 25-30 tons of salt have been used so far, compared with 1,800 tons last year.
Reinhart said last winter he dispatched his trucks 19 times by Jan. 1, 2011. This year, trucks have been dispatched eight times and only bridge decks have been treated.
A ton of asphalt costs $68.50, and a ton of salt mix is about the same, Reinhart said this morning.
"So for every ton of salt mix I save now, I can put down a ton of asphalt in the summer," he said.
Reinhart said he budgets for the worst case scenario each year. Any money remaining in the general maintenance fund can be transferred to the capital improvement fund for road maintenance.
"We still have a long winter ahead of us, but hopefully we'll be able to move a lot of money in the spring," he said.
Reinhart said a mild winter does have some drawbacks. Every year the county bids for salt in an 80-20 percent agreement. If the county uses very little salt, they still have to buy 80 percent of their bid amount. If the county experiences a worse than usual winter, the salt supplier will supply an additional 20 percent.
"But that 80 percent can be saved for next year without any waste," he said.
Having a mild winter is saving the county money but it also delaying some work.
Inspectors have found six major log jams in the St. Marys River between St. Marys and the Mercer County line. Reinhart said crews are waiting for the ground to freeze before bringing in their equipment to clear the waterway before the spring rains.
Workers typically find only one or two jams every year, Reinhart said.
"I think it's a result of the February flood," he said. "It's amazing how one event can build up so much debris."
Reinhart said he has two excavators waiting to begin the work.
"We need to get those cleared before spring, but I'll bury the equipment if I try it now," he said.
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