Franklin County tax burden spread with new development

Greg Mast

Franklin County officials’ goal for years has been to spread the tax burden.

It appears the county is starting to see the results of new development in the past year. The county’s assessed evaluation on properties increased by $16,000 from last year to $276,318.

Janet Paddock, county clerk/finance director, said the increase is due to new development and not just increases in residents’ property.

“We have a lot of new development coming on that helps the other taxpayers to not feel the burden when we do give our employees raises,” Paddock said. “We have a lot of new housing starts in Westwood. We had Hasty Awards, who has been on abatement with the city of Ottawa, and they came back on the tax rolls this year. We have the new project, Keim Trucking at Wellsville, that came on the tax rolls at almost a $1 million of assessed value.”

Those developments coupled with the county budget being flat, led to the mill levy dropping 0.8 of a mill from the 2020 budget to the 2021 budget.

The county approved its 2021 budget with a mill levy of 61.311 compared to 62.117 in 2020 after Wednesday’s budget hearing.

Derek Brown, county administrator/counselor, said the 2020 budget mill levy decreased 0.7 of a mill. Coupled with the 2021 budget, the levy is down 1.5 mills from 62.826 in 2019.

“That is something we are very proud of,” Brown said. “This is largely the same budget that existed last year. Our department heads have kept this largely flat. We have been through every line of this budget with the commissioners.”

Colt Waymire, county commission chair, said the county budget is heading in the right direction.

“We are starting to trend in the right direction,” he said.

County Commissioner Don Stottlemire, who has voted on 16 budgets, said the process is smooth and likes the county officials’ team work.

“I appreciate your staff,” he said. “We are keeping the dollars the same, but the structure (is different).”

Brown said the department heads and elected officials worked hard to include raises for staff and keep the budget flat.

Paddock added they have increased cash reserves and capital improvement funds the past three or four years. She said the county’s cash reserves sit at $1.8 million and the capital improvement fund has $1.2 million.

“That is really important when we are talking about funding projects with cash in hand instead of funding them with money we have to borrow,” she said.

Brown said all county officials put in a lot of thought and work into a budget each year.

“The annual budget is the most important policy decision that the commissioners make,” he said.