A newly released Budget and Economic Advisory Panel report warns of a looming $13 mil. annual deficit in Franklin County

On August 1, the Franklin County Budget and Economic Advisory Panel released its findings on Franklin County's fiscal condition and recommendations for dealing with a $13 million annual structural deficit the panel projects will continue for the "foreseeable future."

The panel was convened by county commissioners and the county administrator in February 2013. Former Columbus Chamber CEO Ty Marsh chaired the panel; members included Pierre Bigby, Bill LaFayette, Karen Morrison, Frederick Ransier, Martyn Redgrave, Timothy Robinson and William Shkurti.

After five months of bi-weekly meetings, the panel reports that while Franklin County has maintained a strong credit rating and spends frugally the region nonetheless faces increasingly lower cash reserves.

"Intergovernmental Revenue for all funds by almost $51.0 million in 2013. In addition to these reductions, the County has been faced with lower investment income and tax receipts as a result of the recession. As a result, Franklin County will use approximately $17.2 million in General Fund cash reserves this year. Current expectations are for that trend to continue," all of which will lead to the $13 million compounding annual deficit.

The report also warned of continued fiscal uncertainty caused by a number of factors, including:

the direction of the economy county infrastructure needs tax policy changes at the state level fluctuating casino tax revenues health care reform and Medicaid expansion

The panel recommends county commissioners bolster Franklin County through "aggressive" risk management policies including:

maintaining adequate cash reserves increased sales and/or property taxes to fund future capital, economic development and community partnership investments maintaining Triple-A credit ratings reduce the annual expenses by $6 million over the next three to five years

Even with these hedges in place, the report warns that a "projected structural deficit will continue" in Franklin County over the coming years.