Mayor: No room in budget to fulfill requests

COLUMBIANA – The city’s nearly $35 million projected 2014 budget includes some items recently requested by department heads, but not everything made the cut. Meanwhile, Mayor Bryan Blakeman said there isn’t enough room in the budget to fulfill requests in the first place.

Blakeman pointed out that of the 30 active funds that make up the overall budget 17 will end the year with losses.

Total deficit spending for the year is projected at $673,690. Funds with the most deficit spending include the self-funded healthcare fund, which will exceed revenues by $204,900 and the electric fund, by $91,623, he noted.

“Of the 17 funds operating on deficit spending only seven of them will be under $10,000 in revenue loss,” he said.

The city has been discussing trimming health care costs over the last few years and is currently working with consultants to see if moving away from the self-funded plan would be more beneficial.

The city has typically budgeted $900,000 for health care in the past, but serious claims have pushed that toward more than $1 million the last two years.

The city is expected to spend $1.1 million on insurance for its roughly 50 full-time employees this year.

Finance Director Mike Harold said a portion of the overall budget includes the nearly $15 million in federal funding needed for the new water plant.

Deficit spending is not projected for the water fund, and according to Harold’s projections, the fund will actually have a surplus of $278,490, not including carryover from last year.

Included in the water budget are a re-issue of notes that mature on June 5.

“I believe the one note was to be paid off and rolled into the loan for the water plant. But because of the uncertainty at this time of the progress of the water plant, I needed to budget to pay off the notes and then re-issue them,” he explained.

The notes were for water main improvements and engineering at the existing plant and amount to $1,082,305 combined, including interest.

Also included in the water fund is the $20,000 being paid to Bricker and Eckler law firm for their counsel on the new water treatment plant project.

Included in the sewer department fund is a new full-time employee, which was requested by Superintendent Bryan Dicken.

Electric Superintendent Doug Sturgeon will have to choose between using budgeted money for his requests for North Main Street renovations or an LED lighting project.

Both were roughly $40,000, Harold said.

The electric budget also includes the last payment of the note taken out for improvements to the system, which accounts for $1,150, principal and interest combined.

The note will also be paid off June 5.

Requests for a new dump truck, track truck and paving material were included in the street budget, amounting to $265,000, and $120,000 was budgeted in the fire fund for a new brush truck, requested by Fire Chief Rick Garrity.

“Unfortunately not all requests could be included in this year’s budget, however they will remain a need and will be looked into for possible inclusion in next year’s budget,” Harold said.

Police Chief Tim Gladis’ request for a new vehicle for detective Wade Boley and a new full-time dispatcher were not met, and Sturgeon’s request for a new bucket truck was also not included.

The truck was estimated to cost $220,000, and Harold said the fund cannot afford to have that much money taken out at one time.

Carryover money from 2013 is keeping funds from dipping into the red despite deficit spending and the city will have $7.45 million left over by the end of the year, according to Harold’s projections.

Council passed a motion to accept the budget. They also approved:

– Requests from Jacob Sevek for the American Legion Post 290 to have a pole to pole banner placed across North Main Street on or about Aug. 7, to be removed at the conclusion of the 128th annual Street Fair, and hosting the fair Sept. 4-6 along the lower section of Main Street south of Union Street, with the parade beginning at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 4. Requested road closures were Main Street to the square Sept. 3 at 5:30 p.m., and the city block next to AAA the evening of Sept. 3 to allow J&J Amusements to set up an office trailer. Also requested was use of shuttle buses to and from Firestone Park Sept. 5 and 6 to alleviate parking problems in town, and a waiver of the $25 fee for fairs held in the city.

– A request from Jacob Sevek for the American Legion to host the annual Memorial Day parade on May 26, with formation beginning at 9:30 a.m. and the parade at 10 a.m., with the route from the square on South Main Street and east on Park Avenue to the cemetery.

– A request from Joyce Allcorn for the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary to hold the annual “Poppy Days” on May 2 and 3.

A special council meeting has been set for 7 p.m. April 22 to go over electric rate study results.