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2015 enterprise funds in red

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Immediate needs in the water department will require the Village to significantly dip into the Village general fund surplus in 2015 to pay for two urgent projects, Village Manager Patti Bates said last week.

“There’s no way around these two projects,” Bates said at the meeting.
Council discussed the water department needs at a special meeting on Village enterprise funds and capital projects at Council’s Nov. 3 meeting. Council will discuss the complete 2015 budget at a special 6 p.m. meeting this Monday, Nov. 17, before its regular meeting. A meet and greet for new police officers takes place at 5 p.m., before the budget meeting.

All together, the Village water fund will next year need to take about $800,000 out of the Village general fund, which funds most Village programs other than utilities, for the water projects. About $400,000 is needed for a loop completion project in water lines near the Antioch College campus, which will improve fire flow at the college and downtown. While the project is estimated to cost about $800,000, half of that will be covered by a grant that could be lost if the Village doesn’t move ahead soon, according to Bates.

A second needed project in the Village water distribution system, repairing a bottleneck in pipes in the south end of town, can be put off for another year, according to Bates.

However, the Village also needs to move quickly on constructing a new water plant to replace the current aging plant, and the remaining $400,000 to come out of the 2015 general fund surplus will pay for the preliminary design phase of the new plant construction project, which is estimated to cost about $3.5 million in total. The amount is only a broad estimate of the exact cost of the design phase, since last week Bates hadn’t yet begun negotiatons with the firm HNTB, Council’s first choice for the preliminary design firm.

Capital projects involving Village water are intended to come out of the Village water fund, which is funded by fees for water use. But because the water fund is anticipated to run a deficit of about $246,852 this year out of a beginning balance of $288,832, ending up with a balance of only $41,980, the Village needs to dip into the general fund surplus. Council members have stated they will soon initiate rate studies in order to determine how much to raise rates to bring in more revenues.
The water fund deficit can be partly linked to the malfunction of a filter in the water plant, which required that villagers conserve water from April to August and therefore led to decreased water use, according to Village Finance Director Melissa Vanzant at the meeting.

The $800,000 for water projects will reduce the Village general fund balance of about $1.4 million to $600,000 in 2015. In recent years, the general fund has had a large surplus balance, but capital projects and two years of deficit spending are drawing down the surplus.

Enterprise funds in red
While the Village projects deficit spending in 2015 for all of its enterprise funds, the deficits this year weren’t as large as expected in mid-year forecasts, according to Vanzant. Manager Bates had asked all department heads to cut at least 3 percent from their departments, and they all complied with cuts at least that large.

“I want to thank our staff,” Bates said. “I asked them to cut operating and capital expenses and everyone cut more than asked. They understand the current environment and are working hard to make things work.”

While the electric fund goes into the red in 2015, it also has a large surplus balance to cushion the deficit spending. The electric fund projects $537,828 in deficit spending this year, with a projected surplus balance of $2.18 million at the end of the year. The deficit is linked to decreased use and is at least partly due to local efforts to conserve energy, Council members have said.

The Village sewer fund projects 2014 deficit spending of $373,714, for an ending balance of $203,541. Because sewer use is linked to overall water use, the broken water plant filter also contributed to this fund’s decreased revenues.

And the solid waste fund also projects deficit spending. With a beginning balance of $87,776 and projected deficit spending of $71,887, the fund ends the year with a balance of $15,889.

According to Village Manager Patti Bates, she and Vanzant believe they have found two “easy fixes with minimal impact on residents” to beef up the sewer and solid waste funds and bring them back into the black. Currently the sewer fund doesn’t charge for the first 1,000 gallons of monthly use, and charging for this use would bring a revenue increase of about $9,500 monthly. In the solid waste fund, a base rate increase of $1.56 per month for level 1 solid waste users, from $10.40 to $11.96, would bring an annual increase of about $29,000 to that fund.

All in all, the increases would mean about a $7.40 monthly increase for consumers, according to Bates. Bates will also re-bid the Village’s solid waste contract with Rumpke to try for better rates.

Beef up parks for income
In a year in which the Village budget will dip into the red, Manager Bates is looking for new ways to bring in revenue.

One strategy is to make Village parks more attractive, Bates said at the Nov. 3 meeting, so that they draw paying visitors. To do so, the parks crew is requesting funding for several relatively inexpensive projects to beef up the parks. Funding would come from the parks and recreation improvement fund, which has a healthy balance of $282,766.

For Gaunt Park, the projects include installing new fencing for the softball field to improve safety, at a cost of $14,000; repainting the interior and lines at the Gaunt Park pool, at $25,000 to fix current sharp edges and peeling paint; installing a concessions trailer for ball tournaments at about $15,000, and fixing a leaky roof on the pool guardhouse, at about $10,500.

With improved ball fields and new concessions, the Village could sponsor tournaments that would draw more teams to use Village parks, and thus raise money. And the pool area and park overall would be more attractive.

“The longterm goal is to make Gaunt Park a place where a family can spend the day,” Bates said.

Council President Karen Wintrow expressed concern about the level of management required by increased use of parks, and also asked if a market analysis had been completed that showed a need for the ballpark space.

Teams from outside the village have already expressed interest in using the park, Bates said. Cuts to parks and pools in many municipalities in recent years have made the Yellow Springs facilities more attractive, according to Parks Crew Head Jason Hamby.

The Village also aims to improve Ellis Park by replacing a shelter roof, for $1,000, and replacing broken concrete on the water’s edge, which is deemed unsafe, with an aggregate path around the pond.

In other capital expenses, Interim Police Chief Dave Hale requested a new cruiser for $60,000, if the money is available in the Furtherance of Justice fund. Council member Lori Askeland reported that she has heard from several villagers who are dissatisfied with the new look of Village Dodge chargers that appear more aggressive than previous police cars.

“The look of the police cars makes people uncomfortable,” Askeland said.

The kind of cars available to police departments are dependent on what’s available through the state bidding process, according to Bates, who also said that the current vehicle decals could be removed for a less aggressive look.

Hamby and Bates reported on a relatively inexpensive solution to the need for a new structure to shelter Village equipment at the Sutton Farm crew quarters. While the project was originally estimated at more than $100,000 for a new building in which to house the equipment, Hamby devised a solution using lean-tos on the side of the salt barn for equipment storage, a project that would cost less than $50,000, he said.
The capital budget for 2015 also includes $12,500 for inexpensive shower facilities for crew members at the Sutton Farm, which are currently not available. Having such facilities is necessary for safety reasons, according to Bates, who stated her concern that crew members are currently forced to drive to their homes and families wearing uniforms that are sometimes tainted with hazardous materials.

Due to budget constraints, Council will not automatically include $25,000 toward green space in 2015, Council members agreed. The green space fund currently has a balance of $170,972.

In other Nov. 3 Village business:
• Villager Tim Barhorst urged Council to join the nonprofit Next Century Cities, which provides advice and tools for towns to pursue municipal broadband.

“Whether the CBE passes or fails, we need this infrastructure for our future,” he said.

There is no cost to join the group; the only requirement is that the Village would agree to abide by the group’s principles, which include that the Internet be used in a bipartisan manner.

Council charged Bates with bringing a resolution to join the group at the Nov. 17 meeting.

• Council unanimously approved a resolution that allows Bates to enter into a contract with Weatherproofing Technologies Inc. to install a new roof for the Yellow Springs Public Library, at a cost of $258,577. Wintrow recused herself from the vote since her husband, Ted Donnell, is the architect on the project.

Council’s next meeting will be Monday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m., with a special 2015 budget meeting preceding at 6 p.m. A meet and greet for new police officers will take place at 5 p.m. in Rooms A and B.


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