Created on Wednesday, 09 January 2013 Written by JOEL E. MAST
City leaders not ready to loosen purse strings just yet
Bellefontaine entered 2012 planning to spend about $250,000 of its general fund reserves.
Instead, it ended the year adding $844 to its more than $2.5 million carryover balance, thanks to improved income tax revenues.
As 2013 gets under way, city leaders are waiting to see if the trend continues before altering its current spending philosophy.
City Auditor Jack Reser told the council’s Finance Committee the income tax could bring in as much as $5.5 million this year.
Those revenues make up the bulk of the city’s $7.4 million general fund budget to cover such services as police and fire, administration, tax collections, engineering services and transfers to parks and recreation, street, cemetery and other special revenue funds.
Mr. Reser said the city’s general fund may be too reliant on the income tax as recent economic downturns led to job losses and plant shutdowns.
A resurgence in auto production at Honda and the effect on its local suppliers has improved income tax receipts.
AcuSport Corp.’s plans to add 80 jobs and spend $3 million to expand will only add to those revenues.
Still, Mr. Reser cautioned the city should wait to see what collections are in the first months of the year before loosening spending constraints.
The future spending philosophy needs to consider wage issues with the city’s police and fire unions and setting aside money for capital improvements, he noted.
Service-Safety Director James Holycross said informal talks with the unions have been ongoing.
Both units agreed to wage freezes several years ago with the understanding pay increases could be looked at if there were improvements to Bellefontaine’s financial situation.
The city also has eliminated positions throughout its operations.
Both Mr. Holycross and Mr. Reser want the finance committee to consider a capital improvement plan to cover the upkeep of the city’s infrastructure and facilities.
Outside the general fund, Mr. Reser said the city needs to look at increasing water rates.
“Revenues have been stagnant the past three years,” he said, “but expenses have gone up.”
Mr. Holycross noted there are more delinquent accounts, too. Bellefontaine is collecting the money, just not as timely as it would like.
Mr. Reser said the administration should have a proposed final budget to council members before the next meeting at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 22. It should be ready for a first reading by the Feb. 12 meeting.
In other city news, the fire department is adding Brandon Rutherford to its staff. He will take an oath at 2:30 p.m. Friday in Council Chambers and start work Tuesday.
He is fully trained as a firefighter and paramedic and has served on the department’s auxiliary.
Council’s Treasury Investment Board meets at 6 p.m. Jan. 21.