Budget Picture

BELMONT COUNTY conducted its annual budget meeting Wednesday.

As expected, it yielded mixed reviews. Good news and concern both could be gleaned from the financial session.

That comes as no surprise.

We believe Belmont County is headed in the proper direction. Things are on the upswing. But we also feel that there is a long way yet to navigate before we strike prosperity.

Auditor Andrew Sutak is well-schooled when it comes to such proceedings. He noted the next two years were expected to be tight, with the county remaining at a status quo with some revenues up and some down. Such a scenario is not surprising.

Some of the challenges the county faces are not of its own making. Sutak noted that the county was facing a local government cut of 25 percent through 2013. A loss of $73,000 is likely.

While not paralyzing, losing that total hampers county operations. It is compounded by the loss of $150,000 the year prior, adding up to a loss of a quarter million dollars.

Belmont County has weathered that financial storm rather well.

The county coffers are also enjoying an increase in sales tax. That is a key development as the sales tax is the county’s largest revenue source. We are of the hope that trend will continue to escalate. If so, the county’s financial picture takes on a much brighter look.

A big piece of the economic puzzle is the impact of the oil and gas industry. We continue to hear that “it is coming but not here yet.”

Belmont County is on solid enough footing to operate efficiently until “it comes.” When the oil and gas industry delivers more of an impact, Belmont County should begin to experience an economic revitalization.

“I’m hoping that 2014 is going to be a breakout year with oil and gas,” Sutak said.

If such is the case, it is one we can live with.