Wilmington council starts budget talks

Proposed budget projects spending $9 million

By Nathan Kraatz - [email protected]

WILMINGTON — Pencils are being sharpened, calculators punched and numbers are about to be crunched. It’s budget time in Wilmington council chambers.

Mayor Randy Riley presented a budget projecting $7,784,000 in revenue and $9,065,000 in expenses for the general fund. That’s a $1,281,000 deficit.

The amount of money that will be carried forward from 2015 into 2016 has not yet been provided to the News Journal. By law, the city can only spend up to its expected revenue and its “carryover.”

Last year, council approved an $8.6 million budget but has since changed its appropriations to $9.4 million, most of which was added in the year for road work.

Riley told the News Journal that the budget is “meat and potatoes” with no “fluff.”

“I think it’s a fair budget,” he said, adding that he hopes it will take on some deferred maintenance and projects.

He also said the budget is a best-guess kind of scenario.

“Everybody thinks budgets are exact,” he said. “It’s just not that way at all, particularly in government. When you put a budget out, you really don’t have an idea of what the revenues or the expenses will be.”

Riley also said that the budget doesn’t call for an increase in earnings tax revenue from PC Connection’s moving from outside of the city to inside the city.

“Sometimes when you’re doing on this big of an operation, this complex of an operation, you’re really just trying to get it as close as you possibly can without trying to risk” too much, he said.

City council member Mark McKay complimented Riley for preparing a budget that didn’t call for much of an increase in spending.

“I’m very happy to see that there really isn’t a lot of change in these appropriation figures from one year to the next,” McKay said. “That tells me that everyone has tried to bring everything, even when it was difficult, to a number we can all agree on.”

“We are eating into a reserve,” City Auditor David Hollingsworth said. “We’ve exhausted about every means that we can as far as cutting, refinancing, things of that nature.”

Council member and finance chair Marian Miller said the budget does call for a shortfall, but doesn’t represent a significant increase in spending from this current year.

Council is just now “getting the full picture” in terms of estimated revenue and expenses, she said, and will have to figure out how best to proceed.

There are also several other funds, which City Auditor David Hollingsworth told council, mostly break even, with help from the general fund. According to a document presented by Hollingsworth, the city transfers more than $3.6 million from the general fund to other funds to pay for street maintenance and repair, police, fire and other city services.

Reserves in the street lighting, fire emergency ambulance and recreation funds will be used to pay for operations in those areas.

Hollingsworth said the state legislature is changing how income taxes worked across the state. He said one of those changes would move payments due in January to December. As a result, the city should receive several hundred thousand dollars one month earlier than usual and in a different fiscal year than it did previously.

Council also:

• Received public comment from Diana Allen, who told council she dropped her water payment into the drop box at the city’s utility billing department two days late, after 4 p.m. She said the department charged her a late fee and refused to drop it, so she called the Ohio Attorney General’s office, which she said took care of it and told her to do it again to see if the department charges another late fee. The office did, she said. Council took no action but several officials said they would look into getting the late fee waived, and Wilmington Law Director Brian Shidaker urged the fee be waived because the ordinance creating the 48-hour grace period doesn’t specify a certain time payments must be received.

• Passed an ordinance creating a no-parking zone on South Walnut Street near the fire department.

• Passed an ordinance creating a four-way stop at the corner of Walnut Street and Short Street. The intersection was previously a three-way stop.

• Held a second reading on a Community Reinvestment Area program. The program aims to incentivize developers and homeowners to develop homes by offering tax abatements.

• Appropriated $35,000 to the Urban Development Assistance Grant, $17,110 to probation services for capital equipment, $20,000 to the community corrections fund for expenses and $2,000 to pay for an IT consultant.

• Received notice of grant opportunities from the Clinton County Solid Waste Management District Coordinator Jeff Walls, who also shared Ohio Environment Protection Agency grants. The grants are eligible to townships, municipalities and businesses and vary in amounts from $3,000 to $5,000 for the local grants and up to $250,000 for the Ohio EPA grants . Applications are available for the CCSWMD’s grants at www.co.clinton.oh.us/recycling and Ohio EPA at www.recycleohio.gov.

Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.

Proposed budget projects spending $9 million

By Nathan Kraatz

[email protected]