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2014 Village revenues beat expectations

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There was good news regarding last year’s Village general fund budget at Village Council’s Jan. 20 meeting, according to Finance Director Melissa Vanzant. In 2014, revenues exceeded projections and expenses came in lower than expected.

“Things are not as bad as expected regarding the deficit,” Vanzant said. The budget presentation was one of several 2014 end-of-year reports Council received at the meeting.

In March of last year, the Village’s deficit for the general fund, which funds most Village activities other than utilities, was projected to be about $500,000 for the year. However, the Village ended the year with a deficit of around $200,000. According to a report from Vanzant, the smaller deficit is linked to larger than expected revenues — the general fund revenues exceeded expectations by about 13 percent, or $357,828. Most of that increase came from higher-than-projected income tax receipts from local businesses, which were $119,000 higher than anticipated from the top 25 taxpayers alone.

Also, expenses for the general fund came in $341,591 lower than projected, according to the budget report.

At the end of the year, the general fund surplus was about $1.9 million rather than the $1.6 million projected earlier in the year, according to Vanzant.

End-of-year revenues for all funds, including the enterprise (utility) funds, were $9,064,185, with expenses at $9,669,570, with an overall budget deficit of about $605,385, or 6 percent of the total budget.

Improvements in the water lines at Cemetery Street and Limestone Street, upgrades to the Gaunt Park ballfields, and completion of Phase 2 of the downtown streetscape project were among the 2014 Village capital projects, according to an end-of-year report from Manager Patti Bates. The Village also hired HNTB, a criteria engineer, to guide the design-build process for the new Village water plant after requesting and receiving extensive water sourcing analyses on the project.

In 2014 the Village paved several streets, including Woodrow, Brookside, Spillan, Shawnee, Northwood, Gardendale and Whitehall. The Village also made street improvements in the Fair Acres neighborhood and completed sidewalk repairs around Mills Lawn School, among other projects. A project to upgrade the Yellow Springs Skate Park moved ahead, with funds committed for those improvements, along with upgrades to Ellis Park, in 2015.

In other Jan. 20 Village business:
• Council revisited a discussion on how best to fund Village sidewalk repair. The topic was discussion only, with no votes taken.

Until fairly recently, villagers were held accountable for sidewalk repairs on their property, a practice used by most municipalities, according to Bates, but one that locally led to many delays in repairs. However, a few years ago, Council revised the policy and made the Village responsible for funding sidewalk repairs, due to the Village emphasis on walkability. While $50,000 a year is set aside in the Village budget for sidewalks, this amount does little to stay on top of the sidewalk needs, according to Bates, and budget constraints require that the Village can’t put aside more.

The Village has five options, according to Bates, including keeping the present system; returning the repair responsibility to homeowners; establishing a program of assessing repair needs and then billing homeowners for repairs; passing a special property tax for sidewalk maintenance costs; and requiring that sidewalk repairs be made before local homes are sold.

Superintendent of Streets and Parks Jason Hamby proposed that the Village staff repair sidewalks every five years in a different section of town, then assess homeowners for the work done.

Council member Lori Askeland requested that villagers weigh in to Council on how best to address sidewalk needs. Council will reconsider the issue at its Feb. 2 meeting.

• Council approved the nominations of members of a new committee to review the Village charter. The members are Laura Curliss; Craig Mesure; Aaron Saari; Jane Scott, Sheila Miller and Kat Walter.

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