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Investments, casino revenue down this year

WARREN — Trumbull County is slated to bring in $628,000 less in investment earnings than predicted at the beginning of the year, according to county Treasurer Sam Lamancusa.

Low interest rates and the state of the economy are to blame, Lamancusa said. The reduction is not necessarily related to COVID-19, because the county already was predicting in January that it would receive less in returns than it did last year, he said.

“Interest rates were already starting to drop, even before COVID, so I don’t know if COVID is entirely to blame. It is the down-trod of the economy in a nutshell,” Lamancusa said. “The drop will be about $1 million less than the previous year.”

In 2019, the county earned about $2 million in returns. In January, Lamancusa estimated $1.735 million in returns, and now expects to deposit $1.107 million.

The county’s casino revenue also is down, Debbie Santangelo, deputy auditor, said.

The county brought in about $2.4 million in casino revenue last year and is expected to bring in about $1.8 million this year, around a $550,000 decline, Santangelo said.

Though the county received $12.174 million in CARES Act funding, it cannot be used as a revenue replacement, Santangelo said. That money must be spent on expenses related to COVID-19, she said. Commissioners have until Dec. 31 to encumber the money on approved expenses or it will go back to the Office of Management and Budget.

Even after the money is encumbered, it must be spent within a month of the encumbrance, she said. If any of the funding is spent incorrectly, the county will have to return it. The money can’t be spent on regular expenses, she said, but so far has helped county offices adapt to the pandemic with plexiglass dividers and cleaning supplies.

Commissioners on Wednesday also approved using $750,000 of the money for a small business relief fund being administered through the Trumbull County Planning Commission and Valley Economic Development Partners. Information about the CARES 4 Trumbull program is expected to be available online at ValleyEDP.com once it goes live.

Other CARES Act funds are expected to go toward food banks and other assistance programs, though time is running out to solidify the appropriations before the expiration.

Santangelo said some of the money didn’t even come in until October, so the timeline is tight and so far no extension has been announced.

It appears, so far, that sales tax collections haven’t been hit, but a few months remain before the end of the year. Collections were at $21 million this time last year, and are at $22 million now, she said.

“It is up a little since last year, but there are two more months to go,” Santangelo said.

The budget is expected to be “tight” with the other losses, she said.

rfox@tribtoday.com

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