Created on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 Written by JOEL E. MAST
Bellefontaine could start the new year with a general fund spending plan that equals it revenues, a significant change from recent years in which the city had to use reserves to maintain its workforce and services to residents.
“It looks like we could have a balanced budget,” said Council Finance Chairman Mark Fissel, “but not necessarily a sustainable budget.”
The proposed $7.5 million general fund appropriation does not provide for additional personnel outside of one firefighter, pay raises nor new equipment purchases, he said.
Service-Safety Director James Holycross said the firefighter hire is in lieu of two open positions.
Also, the department moved one firefighter’s salary from the Ambulance Fund, which is an enterprise fund supported by user fees, to the general fund which is primarily supported by local income tax revenues.
City Auditor Jack Reser said revenues have improved this year, but it is still too early to tell if it is a continuing trend.
Income tax receipts are up $260,000 and the city should end the year with a $2 million reserve.
In the past several years, Bellefontaine has used $300,000 or more in reserves each year to meet expenditures.
Along the way, the number of city workers has dropped as the administration declined to hire replacements for retirees.
A police officer was hired this year, breaking the trend.
Council members approved a first reading of the $23.8 million temporary budget which includes the general fund, special revenue funds and enterprise funds.
Mr. Fissel and Finance Committee member Deb Baker met in executive session with the administration, Police Chief Brandon Standley and Law Director Howard Traul II to discuss negotiations with the police officers union.
To help ease the city’s financial stress and maintain staffing, police officers and firefighters have voluntarily gone without pay increases for the last three years with the understanding the unions could reopen wage talks if there is an improvement in city revenues.
No action was taken, nor was there any indication if the police union was seeking a pay raise for 2013.
The council is planning to drop the second scheduled meeting in December as it would fall on Christmas Day.
Council members will meet at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 in a special session to consider a tax incremental finance district measure. The measure, which sets aside property tax revenues earned on new valuations, must be passed before the end of the year.
The next regular meeting of the council is at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 27