Not even halfway through 2023, it’s time to think about 2024 budgets.

Wayne County’s commissioners began their budget discussions during a portion of their May 24 weekly meeting. The County Council, which finalizes the county’s budget, has requested departments provide budget requests by June 1.

Commissioners plan to ask the council for additional money in two funds that maintain county buildings. They agreed to increase their request for the cumulative courthouse fund to $400,000—a $66,000 bump—and to request $100,000, rather than zero, for the cumulative capital fund. The courthouse fund pays for maintenance and projects at the jail, courthouse and annex building, while the capital fund pays for projects at all other county buildings.

Commissioner Jeff Plasterer said the increases are warranted because the county has increased the pace of projects and project costs are rising. He noted that some of the issues commissioners are now addressing remain issues because they were not dealt with previously.

The commissioners also would like $20,000 in the 2024 budget for departmental restructuring. They have discussed giving additional administrative tasks to some employees to prepare for transitions when departmental leaders retire. Plasterer said the county needs to do a better job of planning for transitions.

The money would pay for salary increases when employees take on additional responsibilities.

Commissioners also would like to increase their support of Animal Welfare League to $50,000 and to bump their contractual budget from $65,000 to $100,000.

Commissioner Mary Anne Butters expressed hope the commissioners could discuss with the council a commissioners contingency fund with $25,000. That money would be used when needs arise during the budget year. She said it would enable commissioners to be more nimble and responsive to emergencies and opportunities throughout the year.

Public hearing set

Commissioners set a public hearing for 11 a.m. June 14 for a zoning request involving two acres at the northwest corner of U.S. 27 and Williams Road in New Garden Township.

Jack and Rebecca Baker petitioned the county to rezone the two acres from agricultural zoning to community business district zoning. The rezone would allow for a general retail store on that portion of the Bakers’ property, which is across U.S. 27 and just south of the Northeastern Wayne School Corporation campus.

Laura Miller, head of the county’s planning and zoning, said the exact nature of the store was not revealed during an advisory plan commissioner meeting; however, county officials presume it would be a Dollar General. The plan commission voted to recommend commissioners deny the zoning request.

Other actions

Christine Stinson, executive director of the Wayne County Health Department, received commissioner permission to apply for an addendum to the county’s harm reduction grant. The additional funding of $112,280 would pay for two disease intervention specialists.

The new positions would investigate cases and find outbreak epicenters, Stinson said. They are in addition to additional positions Stinson plans to finance through the extra state funding that begins during 2024.

Commissioners awarded Carroll Electric the bid to supply a backup generator for the Wayne County Administration Building. Carroll bid $249,700 for the generator and landscaping to obscure it from view.

There’s an expected lead time of six months for delivery of the generator.

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A version of this article appeared in the May 31 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.