Village Council

Village ends ’07 fiscal year with $1.5 million surplus

The Village of Yellow Springs ended its 2007 fiscal year with a general fund surplus of about $1.5 million, its largest surplus in recent years, according to Village Manager Eric Swansen at Council’s March 31 meeting.

The special meeting was called to give Council the chance to approve the second reading of the 2008 Village budget before the state deadline of April 1. Council unanimously approved the second reading of the budget, with all members present.

The surplus in 2007 can be linked to unexpected estate tax revenues, unanticipated income tax from Antioch College retirement packages, and conservative Village fiscal management, including some unfilled positions, according to Swansen in recent meetings. That year was also the first year that the Village had about $743,000 in annual income from a five-year property tax levy passed in 2006. The 2006 end of year balance was $901,113 and in 2005 it was $480,928, according to figures provided by Swansen.

As part of the 2008 budget, Council also approved spending for one-time projects, many of which had been postponed in recent years due to budget constraints.

“It looks like we’re spending a lot, but a lot of it is for deferred projects,” Swansen said.

The 2008 Village budget anticipates an end of the fiscal year balance of $909,721, after the one-time projects have been funded. The 2008 budget can be viewed online at www.yso.com or on the page in the lobby of the Bryan Community Center and the Yellow Springs library.

The 2008 one-time project expenditures included $290,000 for projects related to Council goals, including $50,000 for a visioning process, $35,000 for zoning code changes and updates, $25,000 for a survey on housing needs and $10,000 for diversity initiatives. The one-time expenses also include $1,226,400 in equipment and capital projects, including remodeling of the Village crew headquarters at the Sutton Farm, and a new backhoe, dumptruck and police cruiser.

While the expenditures add up to a large amount, the Village has the resources to cover them, Swansen said, stating that in the past the Village has sometimes undertaken projects without cash in hand.

“Before we’re spending money for one-time projects, we’re sure it’s there rather than anticipating the revenues,” he said. “It’s the more prudent, conservative way of managing capital expenditures.”

In response to a question from Council member Karen Wintrow, Swansen said that the property tax levy revenues are being spent as Council promised, with about half of those revenues for people-oriented services and half for roads.

The 2008 Village budget had about $12,279,000 in total appropriations, with $3,685,529 for the general fund, $1,616,506 for special funds and $4,592,058 for the revenue, or utility, funds.

In recent meetings, Swansen has stated that the Village needs to estimate 2008 revenues conservatively, especially in light of the announced closing of Antioch College. At the March 31 meeting, Swansen said that if the college closes, the Village would lose about $100,000 in income tax revenues, although the exact amount is difficult to pin down because the income tax revenues of Antioch College employees are combined with those of Antioch University employees.

In light of that anticipated shortfall, the Village should consider cutting expenses, increasing revenues, or possibly using part of the Village’s reserve funds if Council believes the college closing will be temporary rather than permanent.

“Those reserves are for a rainy day, and this is a rainy day,” he said. “Those revenues can tide you over a rough patch.”

The Village also needs to keep in mind budgeting for longterm needs, including stimulating economic development, stormwater management, completing the greenbelt, replacing vehicles and improving the downtown retail sector’s appeal, Swansen said.

While Council President Judith Hempfling voted for the 2008 budget, she questioned the expense item of $15,000 for tasers for the police department.

“It’s a policy issue, something we need to discuss rather than just stick in the budget,” Hempfling said.

While Wintrow said she agreed that the use of tasers should be discussed, she said she feels reluctant to question the needs identified by the police department.

“In general, we need to be respectful of their requests,” she said.

In response, Hempfling said, “I feel strongly that we have a right to ask questions. It does not imply disrespect.”

In other Council business:

• Council and members of the Yellow Springs Planning Commission spent two hours discussing the commission’s recent update of the Village Charter. The discussion was an initial step in a process that will involve several more steps before Council officially approves the revised charter. Council agreed to next discuss the charter revisions in two months, after considering the current changes and hearing villagers’ feedback.

Several Council members expressed their concern that overall, the revised charter is too negative in its presentation of Yellow Springs, focusing on what villagers disagree about rather than what they agree on, and that too many assumptions had been made. Council also discussed the possibility of hiring a consultant to make the revisions.

The revised Village Charter can be viewed online at www.yso.com.

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