County Commissioners are elected for a term of four years. Two are elected in the presidential election year and one in the gubernatorial year.
The Board of Commissioners operates by adopting resolutions, which require approval of at least 2 of the Commissioners. Although Commissioners are considered the legislative authority of the county, they cannot make laws. The Ohio Revised Code offers certain "Home Rule" powers to municipalities and to counties, which have adopted an alternate form of government (County Council and Elected Executive). The powers, which the Board of Commissioners may exercise, are spelled out in the Ohio Revised Code.
All property of the county is held in the name of the Board of County Commissioners. The Commissioners buy all major items by receiving bids from would-be suppliers.
Commissioners also are the major appointing authority for boards and Commissions that, by statute, operate part of the county programs. These include the Hospital Board of Trustees, the Airport Authority Board, the Board of Mental Health, the Board of Developmental Disabilities, the Welfare Advisory Board, and the Workforce Investment Board.
The biggest job for the Commissioners is to establish the annual budget for the county. To do this, they rely on the Budget Commission – the Prosecuting Attorney, the Auditor, and the Treasurer. These three make an estimate of the funds available from all sources for the next year. The Commissioners must make the expenses fit the income. It is like running a business or a household. If there is not enough income to cover the expected costs, the proposed budget will be reduced until it does fit. A temporary budget must be finalized by end of calendar year. The permanent budged must be adopted by April 1.
The Commissioners share various inter-county programs. They serve as trustee of the Four County Central Ohio Youth Center, and Commissioners from Delaware, Madison, and Champaign Counties make up the remainder of the board. The Juvenile Judges of the four counties also have policy-making authority in how the center is operated. The costs of running the center are allocated to each county on the basis of the number of youth and number of days spent in detention from each county. The Commissioners also are responsible for Department of Job and Family Services and Senior Services/Union County Area Transportation Services. The Commissioners also have a seat on the Tri-County Regional Jail Board.
One Commissioner and the County Engineer, along with several citizens of our county serve on the Executive Committee of the LUC Regional Planning Commission. With headquarters in East Liberty, LUC acts as a planning and clearinghouse for economic growth, subdivision regulation, zoning and business regulation for Logan, Union, and Champaign Counties.
A new law passed in 1987 called H. B. 592 organized the entire state into Solid Waste Districts. The objective of the act was to make it more difficult for other states to patronize Ohio landfill locations to dump their trash. Union County became a part of the North Central Ohio Solid Waste Management District, which is headquartered in Lima. The Allen County Auditor serves as fiscal officer for the districts and the board of directors is comprised of the Board of County Commissioners of the counties involved. NCOSWMD has six counties: Allen, Champaign, Hardin, Madison, Shelby and Union. This joint Board has taxing and contracting authority, and was required to prepare a plan to dispose of all solid waste generated within the borders of the district. Currently the district’s plan is to continue to dispose of waste primarily at Cherokee Run landfill in Logan County, and in several other landfills outside the district that were being used by communities when the act was passed by the General Assembly. The district has no active landfills but has authority to create landfills, incinerators, recycling facilities, etc., to deal with the disposal problems.
Commissioners and the Engineer participate in the Northwest Ohio County Commissioners and Engineers Association, which meets four times per year. The Commissioners are also members of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio and the National Association of Counties.
An important role is maintaining county roads and ditches – a role they share with the Engineer. When a drainage project is proposed which affects more than one landowner, it is proposed by petition to the Board of Commissioners, who then holds a public viewing of the area, public hearings on the work proposed and costs, preparing plans and allocating the costs to the benefited owners. Then another hearing is held, and if the benefits appear to exceed the costs, the Commissioners will allow the project to go to bid. Under a 1957 law, after the ditch is completed, a continuing assessment is made against the benefiting acreage to create a maintenance fund, which the engineer uses to keep the ditch in good working order.
Public hearings are held on petitions for annexation of rural areas into the incorporated villages and cities, for opening or abandonment of roads, for closing of alleys or streets in unincorporated villages, for the input to guide the use of development grants made to the county by state or federal agencies.