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2011 Village budget considered

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The proposed 2011 Village budget is a “fiscally prudent document” that allows the Village to pursue several critical capital projects in the upcoming year, according to Village Manager Mark Cundiff in an interview this week. However, due to concerns about both fiscal realities and the ability of Village staff to manage a significant number of projects, the number of capital projects planned for the upcoming year is cautious, he said.

Village Council reviewed the proposed budget at two recent work sessions, on Nov. 29 and Dec. 11. At the Dec. 11 meeting, Cundiff suggested that Council hold a third meeting on the 2011 budget in January to address any remaining issues and questions. In the meantime, at its Dec. 20 meeting Council will vote on a temporary budget to cover the first three months of 2011. Council will vote on a final 2011 Village budget sometime after the January meeting.

General fund looks good

The 2011 budget forecasts total general fund receipts of $2,866,500, with revenue sources being income taxes, property taxes, special assessments, estate taxes, fines and permit fees and intergovernmental sources. The budget forecasts expenses of $1,961,197, with a remaining balance of $940,777. That surplus surpasses the Village’s goal of having a surplus that is at least 25 percent of the general fund.

Overall, according to Village Finance Director Sharon Potter, “The general fund looks good.”

For 2011, the budget projects a slight increase in Village income taxes over last year, from $1,230,000 to $1,235,000. The slight increase is linked to the revival of Antioch College, according to Potter, who said that estimate is “a guess. With the college coming back income tax will rise but not a lot.”

Village income tax revenues had dropped over recent years due to the economic downturn but Village leaders are looking for it to begin coming back in 2011.

In an e-mail, Potter stated that in 2010 the Village has received $1,217,781 of income tax revenues, out of projected income tax revenues of $1,230,000 for the year. However, there is one income tax payment to go, which last year brought in about $14,400, Potter said. Overall, she said, income tax receipts appear to have declined a little over 1 percent from last year.

The income tax provides about 40 percent of the Village general fund, which is the fund that pays for most human services of the Village, including parks and recreation, the police department, road maintenance and economic development, among others. The 2011 budget also projects property tax income of $1,030,000, which includes about $860,000 from the Village five-year property tax levy that is in its final year.

Council has stated that it will seek a renewal of the property tax levy in the upcoming year.

In the budget breakdown of the property tax levy receipts, $416,006, or 46 percent of the levy, was used for street maintenance; $136,393, or about 16 percent, for Bryan Center repairs and maintenance; $123,444, or 14 percent, for pool projects and maintenance; $101,863 for parks maintenance; $46,184 for economic development; $32,372 for library capital projects and $6,906 for police capital projects.

The 2011 projected general fund budget includes $50,000 for the Village green space fund, $50,000 for energy improvements and $46,000 for economic development, which also comes from the property tax levy. The economic development money funds the Village Economic Sustainability Coordinator Sarah Wildman, who has now been on the job for a year. A number of projects that Wildman has been working on should come to fruition in upcoming months, according to Cundiff.

Council members at the Nov. 29 meeting questioned the $133,400 projected expense in the 2011 general fund for contractual services. That amount is mainly linked to the legal fees of Village Solicitor John Chambers, who continues to help guide the Village through ongoing litigation, according to Cundiff. While the projected contractual services fees in 2010 was about $99,000, the actual amount spent was $152,900, a 54 percent increase.

Capital projects move ahead

The largest capital project from the general fund is a revision of the Village zoning code, which is estimated to cost about $75,000.

Village leaders have frequently discussed the need for a zoning code update in recent years, and the issue came up recently when the Board of Zoning Appeals, or BZA, cited the current code as the reason for rejecting a request for an infill development on Marshall Street last month. The current code, which is considered by many to be too restrictive of variances, conflicts with the stated goal of Council and the Planning Commission for more infill development, Village Planner Ed Amrhein has said. Infill development was also cited as a goal of those who took part in the recent Village/Township visioning process.

General fund capital projects also include $28,000 for a new police car, an expense that was originally planned for last year. According to Police Chief John Grote, some of those funds will come from Furtherance of Justice revenues, which are monies conviscated in drug raids.

Street fund capital projects include $102,000 for the pavement management program, $129,000 for repairs to U.S. 68 and $30,000 for sidewalk repairs. While the state officially maintains state roads such as U.S. 68, state officials have said they do not have Yellow Springs work included in their five-year plan, so the Village will go ahead and do the work, Cundiff said.

Village budget sidewalk repairs are a new line item, as until this year, Council’s policy has been to bill property owners for needed sidewalk repairs. However, that policy changed this year due to Council members viewing sidewalks as part of the village’s overall transportation system.

Parks and recreation capital projects include $50,000 for a consultant to prepare a master plan for Village parks facilities, and $50,000 for skatepark upgrades.

Electric fund doing well

Capital projects for the Village enterprise, or utility funds, include the electric fund, the water distribution fund, the water treatment fund, the sewer collection fund, and the sewer treatment fund.

The electric fund is the healthiest of all Village enterprise funds, according to Cundiff, and the Village anticipates a surplus of about $3 million in 2012. The surplus can be linked to the lack of major problems in the electric system, and the structure of the fund, which allows rate increases to be passed on to the customer.

At the Dec. 6 meeting, Council members considered possible options regarding use of the surplus, including establishing a revolving loan fund to help finance villagers’ energy conservation projects, or customer rebates.

According to Cundiff this week, “there are some exciting things on the electric side,” with potential new projects involving generating renewable energy sources and energy conservation.

Council members agreed to revisit the electric fund surplus in the coming year to consider possible uses of the surplus, especially those linked to energy use. Council President Judith Hempfling stated that the Village Energy Board would also be involved in the conversation.

Water fund still troubled

While the Village increased water use rates this year — after 10 years of no rate increases — the increase may not have been enough, as projected Water Fund ending balances show a projected 2015 deficit of $438,000. The problem, according to Cundiff, is that while the recent fee hike helped the Village to “pull out of 10 years of not keeping up with rising costs,” the hike may not have been enough to allow the Village to maintain facilities. Council members agreed to keep an eye on the fund and revisit it in 2012.

Water fund capital projects this year include a $600,000 Xenia Avenue project that “should help alleviate longstanding problems,” by eliminating a bottleneck in that area, Cundiff said. Other water capital projects include a flow rate study of the Village water supply, to be conducted by the firm LJB for $15,000. The new information could help to determine if it might be more cost effective for the Village to purchase water from neighboring communities rather than provide and treat its own water, Cundiff said.

Sewer projects include a north end of town study of infill and infiltration issues regarding stormwater runoff, estimated at $50,000. At the Dec. 11 meeting, Karen Wintrow questioned the cost of the study, which Cundiff said was an estimate.

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