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Budget proposes pay increase for city workers

Mayor gives State of the City Address

State of the City Address

Mayor Adam M. Brannon

January 22, 2013

 

Ladies and gentlemen, the state of the city of Bellefontaine, in a word, is balanced. For the first year since 2008, our General Fund revenues met and exceeded our General Fund expenses. In 2012, even while balancing our budget, we saw more construction, renovation and renewal projects in the city than in a number of years and in the upcoming year we plan to see more of these projects in different areas all over the city.

 

In 2012 we had budgeted $7.4 million in expenses and expected only $7.2 million in revenues. However, throughout the year because of the bettering of our local economy, with businesses and factories hiring more workers and still seeing an increase in demand, our income tax collections were $317,712.97 more than the amount of 2011’s collections. It is a testament to our department heads and our employees that we have been able to continue to reduce our budgets while still providing terrific quality service to our citizens. In 2013, we expect to budget around $7.6 million in expenses and depending on the auditor’s estimate, $7.5 million in revenues. While it is not perfectly balanced, it is significantly closer than in the years past, and again that is thanks to our improving economy, and also to our employees in continuing to work with reduced budgets and reduced manpower. In my tenure, even as we have reduced budgets we still have been able to find ways to provide for new construction and improvement projects, in 2013 that will not change.

 

The city has tackled many issues over the last year, yet we still have many more to tackle. In 2012 we completed the water meter replacement program, increasing the level of our technology from workers going door-to-door reading what the water usage was for each meter across the whole city to a system where each individual meter reports the usage to our utility offices, saving us man hours while also providing better service to our citizens. With the new meters we receive updates frequently throughout the day and because of that capability, we can and have informed homeowners when there appears to be a leak in their home systems. This project is just one of many projects that we have and are completing through our energy conservation program. We are also drastically overhauling the heating and air conditioning of this building as well as completing work to install new energy-efficient motors at the wastewater treatment plant, we have also put in new efficient lighting around the walking track at Blue Jacket Park, all while saving the city numerous thousands of dollars in energy costs so that we have the ability to reduce our budgets as mentioned before.

 

We look forward to tackling new projects in 2013 that will also see new dollars flowing into the city budget. For example, in March of this year we will rebid the Airport Hangar Project which once built can be rented out and the money it brings in will reduce the amount of our Airport Fund transfer from the General Fund. We will also see the construction of the northern extension of the Simon Kenton trail from Urbana to Lake Avenue here in Bellefontaine. This will open the doors for new tourists, the possibilities for small bicycle-based businesses and more recreational capabilities for our citizens.

 

2012 saw many projects ranging from a voluntary sidewalk replacement program to the largest street resurfacing program in our city’s history. Also completed was the reinstallation of a traffic signal pre-emption system, a curb replacement program to increase the amount of ADA-compliant curb ramps along the U.S. Route 68 bypass and other locations around the city, the Springhill Street reconstruction project which installed new curbing, sidewalks, storm sewers, and a newly paved roadway in a location that badly needed it. We are still in the process of completing our sanitary sewer lining project which will provide those mains many more years of service because of the upkeep that is done now. We also installed new sidewalks along north Main Street, widened State Route 47 in front of AGC and reconstructed the largest city-owned parking lot downtown. 2012 was a very busy year for all city departments and the windstorm on the afternoon of June 29 only served to increase the load.

 

June 29, 2012, we experienced along with many other states in the eastern U.S., one of the strongest windstorms in memory. A derecho storm started near Lake Michigan and swept across Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia. In its wake it left damage to our community in many forms, from trees down to the 70 foot tower of our county courthouse twisted. It also left other communities even worse off, with collapsed buildings and other damage. However, the dedication of our employees is the main reason for bringing this up. The storm occurred around 4:15-4:20 that afternoon. Our street department crew and others had already headed home for the day having come in earlier to escape the summer heat. But after the storm came through, nearly every member of the street department came back into work without having to be asked, a number of the crew hadn’t even taken the time to check on their own homes. They came back into work and worked until dark that first day and all of our employees worked as hard as they could to restore the city to the way it was before the storm as quickly as they could. I cannot say it enough, thank you. Thank you for all you do. Thank you for all you have done while working with less resources than in the past, with less people than in the past and with more requests of our time and efforts than had been done in the past.

 

Also, in response to the storm, our city began to rebuild, in 2012 the engineer’s office filed more than 150 zoning or building permits for a total improvement value of $7,464,679.53. The county commissioners have started the process of replacing the courthouse tower because of the damage inflicted from the storm. We, at the city are also in the process of repairing. The city building will have a new roof and new cupola, the building behind the city garage will have a new roof and there will be replacements for the fencing at the Blue Jacket baseball field and repairs at the damaged shelter houses as well.

 

While in my five years, we have done a very good job at moving our city government forward in technology, in efficiency and in customer service we still have work to do in all of those areas. That is why I will propose that we take this year while we have a better handle on our budget and the economy is showing good signs of recovery, to complete a new comprehensive plan. We have for long enough worked as if the next emergency is the greatest priority and it shouldn’t be that way. I have, over the last couple of months, talked with a number of planning firms who can provide us support and guidance in making sure we create a plan that will not only be a good guide for us to work from but also future administrations and councils.

 

The last five years have seen our local economy take its ups and downs, which has also caused our revenues to follow that path as well. We are heading up and even though there may still be some challenges in front of us, I believe we can plan for the future years instead of the future weeks. We have been knocked down over the last five years by factories closing, Mother Nature causing production slowdowns and small business struggles, but we have not been knocked out. A number of our manufacturing industries are reporting continued hiring as well as many, many overtime hours; local realtors are reporting that 2012 was a banner year with one firm having as many as six “million dollar agents.” Things are getting better and it is my belief that things will continue to get better and we should plan what steps we want to take in the future to continue to maintain excellent service to our citizens and to also find ways to continue to operate as efficiently and as effectively as we can.

 

I want to finish by again saying thank you to our employees and to our city council. Without our employees we would not have had the successes we achieved in the last year and without city council assistance, many of the projects I mentioned earlier would not have come to fruition. Our work is not done, however, and we will continue to work together to make Bellefontaine a terrific community to call home. •

This year’s proposed city budget includes a two percent pay raise for its 118 employees, the first increase in years for many.

The slight increase will add just $85,000 to the city’s general fund payroll.

Both the bargaining units for the police officers and the firefighters have foregone recent pay increases as Bellefontaine faced a dramatic drop in revenues.

Economic stress nationally and internationally affected income tax collections as some local industries shut down or others cut back on production.

At the same time, the state cut local government funding and eliminated tangible personal property taxes, another blow.

But in 2012, auto production began to pick up and new jobs were added at local plants. This improved the city’s income tax collections, the main funding source for the city’s general fund.

This year, City Auditor Jack Reser estimates income tax revenues could hit $5.5 million to help provide $7.5 million for the general fund.

The proposed permanent budget, which could be before the city council in February, will be a little more than $7.6 million.

It is $112,000 more than the temporary budget.

Adding in special revenue funds such as the streets and parks, and enterprise funds such as water and sewer, the city will budget about $24 million for the year.

As part of the Finance Committee’s discussions prior to Tuesday’s regular meeting, Chairman Mark Fissel proposed the council adopt a policy of putting five percent of its carryover balance into a capital improvements fund.

Bellefontaine ended 2012 with a $2.2 million carryover. Under the proposal, the city would put $110,000 aside for expenses such as trucks, police cruisers or facility maintenance.

“I’d like to see us get into the practice of saving five percent of the carryover into the capital improvement fund,” Mr. Fissel said. “Truthfully, it’s not that much.”

The Utilities Committee also will be looking at a rate increase for water. Currently, Bellefontaine’s rate is the 26th highest among 38 municipalities surveyed annually by the city of Oakwood.

Mr. Reser and Service-Safety Director James Holycross said the department’s revenues are flat, providing just enough to operate, but nothing for major infrastructure maintenance.

“It’s too tight,” Mr. Holycross said.

“We want to maintain what we have,” Mr. Reser said, “so that it is a system that has integrity 10 years down the line.”

In regular session, Mayor Adam Brannon gave his state of the city address in which he lauded the city’s employees and the council for helping achieve a balanced budget in 2012. The address appears in its entirety on Page 3.

Bellefontaine’s general fund spent less than it received and still maintained the services to the citizens, he noted.

Council’s next meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12.

The council’s Derelict Housing Committee will meet at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

The Bellefontaine Planning Commission will meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday to consider an annexation request from Doug Elleman for 2361 S. Main St.

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