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2017 Village budget: revenue is up, spending stable

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Village Council at its Sept. 19 meeting heard the first reading of the Village budget for the 2017 general fund. Revenues are expected to rise in 2017, exceeding expenditures by almost $275,000, preliminary budget figures show.

Considered a barometer of municipal fiscal health, the general fund pays for many human services, including public safety, streets, parks and the library. The Village’s utility funds, which are based on utility fees and considered self-sustaining, are not part of the general fund.

Assistant Village Manager/Finance Director Melissa Vanzant characterized the 2017 general fund budget as conservative and fiscally responsible, reflecting Village efforts to conserve resources and plan for the future.

“I feel good about the budget this year,” she said in an interview this week.

Total general fund expenditures, including transfers out to other funds, are forecast at $2.8 million for 2017. That’s about 14 percent lower than the 2016 general fund budget projection of $3.3 million, though actual expenditures for 2016 are expected to come in at $3.1 million.

On the revenue side, general fund revenues are expected to increase by 3.6 percent in 2017, to $3.1 million. Real estate tax receipts are responsible for most of that increase. General fund revenues were budgeted at just under $3 million in 2016; actual revenues are expected to top $3 million by year’s end.

The general fund is on course to begin 2017 with a healthy reserve balance of $1.6 million, about two-thirds higher than the recommended minimum reserve of $1 million. According to the preliminary budget figures, that reserve could grow to $1.9 million by the end of 2017.

“I like to see our reserves above minimum guidelines,” Vanzant stated at the Sept. 19 meeting.

‘Conservative’ spending

This year’s general fund budget reflects a “conservative approach” to spending, Vanzant told Council. General fund expenditures (before transfers out to other funds) are holding steady at just over $2.2 million, the budget figures show.

Several budgets within the general fund, including Village Council, planning and zoning and the library, have been trimmed slightly in 2017. Others are flat or reflect modest increases. Public safety, which represents over half of the general fund budget, is basically flat at $1.4 million. The Village administration budget reflects a rise of 7.6 percent, to $358,650, with personnel costs responsible for most of that increase.

Both the Village administration and public safety budgets anticipate wage increases for 2017, while Village Council wages are budgeted slightly lower in the upcoming year.

Council discussed adding a budget to the general fund earmarked for citizen commissions, perhaps in the amount of $25,000. Currently, the only commission with its own budget is the human relations commission, or HRC, with $8,500 allocated both this year and next year.

Council member Gerry Simms suggested the Village might “want a pot that covers all commissions,” while Council member Judith Hempfling emphasized that any changes affecting the handling of the HRC budget would need that commission’s input.

The general fund also supports several other Village funds, including streets, parks and the green space fund, through transfers out to those budgets. These transfers look to be significantly lower overall this year, in part because of lower spending on streets.

The 2017 streets fund is slated to receive $236,204 from the general fund, less than half of the 2016 and prior years’ transfers. Included in that amount is $50,000 for sidewalk maintenance and repair, according to Vanzant. She attributed this year’s lower spending to prior years’ capital equipment purchases and the recent finishing of the downtown streetscape project.

Spending for parks is about even, with the 2017 parks fund receiving $233,036 from the general fund, slightly less than last year.

In addition, several discretionary funds are budgeted to receive significantly lower amounts in 2017, though Vanzant emphasized that the figures are preliminary and subject to adjustment by Council. Only $5,000 is earmarked for the 2017 green space fund, down from $25,000 last year. Similarly, the Village’s three capital and facilities improvement funds, which each received $50,000 from the general fund last year, are budgeted at $12,500 each in 2017.

Of course, any rises in spending would increase total 2017 expenditures and lower the amount available to add to the general fund’s already healthy reserves at the end of 2017. Previous years’ budgets have dipped into those reserves.

Modest rise in revenue

General fund revenues are projected to rise in 2017, with real estate tax receipts responsible for most of that increase. In 2016, real estate taxes were budgeted at $910,000, while in 2017, these receipts are expected to contribute $987,000 to the general fund.

Included in that figure is $760,000 from the property tax levy renewed by Yellow Springs voters last spring. Because the real estate tax figure is provided by the Greene county auditor, the Village does not yet know the reason behind the anticipated rise in real estate tax revenue outside of the levy amount, according to Vanzant.

City income tax revenue is also expected to grow slightly in 2017, to $1.6 million from $1.55 million.

As in past years, the vast majority of 2017 general fund revenue comes from local taxes, which include real estate, city income, personal property and KWH taxes. These taxes are expected to total $2.7 in 2017.

By contrast, state funds contribute a far smaller share to the general fund, just $248,400 overall in 2017, about on par with past years. State allocations to local government are projected to be just $100,000 in 2017, similar to allocations in the past several years.

Other revenue sources include fines, permits and other receipts. Included in these is Mayor’s Court, staying steady at $20,000.

Council expressed appreciation for the clear overview of the general fund budget and indicated confidence in the budgeting process. Budget discussions will continue through the fall, with reviews of the enterprise, special revenue and capital fund budgets scheduled for Council’s next meeting.

In other Council business:

• Council voted 5–0 to approve a guaranteed maximum price of $7,196,608 for the construction of the new water plant by Dayton firm Shook Construction. A groundbreaking for the new plant was held Sept. 22, and construction is slated to begin Oct. 1.

Included in the guaranteed maximum amount as an optional item is the demolition of the old water plant, estimated to cost just over $51,000. Council discussed other possible uses for the old plant, with citizen Rick Donahoe inquiring whether it could serve as backup for the new facility.

Village Manager Patti Bates said the old plant would require millions of dollars to become functional as backup, and noted that the new plant will include redundant systems. She added that Shook has considered a variety of possible uses, but hasn’t been able to identify a feasible one.

“It’s just not built for anything else,” Bates said.

Council member Hempfling said she had spoken with local group Zero Waste about brainstorming other uses for the old plant.

• Council voted 5–0 to approve a contract with DesignNine Broadband Planners to develop a fiber needs assessment and business plan for the village. The contract amount is $48,500, the lowest bid the Village received, according to Manager Bates.

• Council voted 5–0 on second readings of four ordinances designed to correct typographical errors in the zoning code.

• Council voted 5–0 on a motion by Hempfling to cancel the Village’s “Efficiency Smart” contract with municipal utilities provider AMP, citing the program’s lack of benefit to villagers. The $40,000 saved annually could be used to help citizens struggling with utility increases, several Council members suggested.

• Highlights of the commission reports portion of the meeting included a proposed ordinance from the Environmental Commission to expand the list of banned and discouraged invasive plants; a call to artists organized by the Arts and Culture Commission to design two new signs for the Bryan Center; and work by the Economic Sustainability Commission to revive the revolving loan fund and seek USDA monies for the fund.

• During the citizen comment portion of the meeting, villager William Firestone raised allegations about past conflicts of interest involving Council President Karen Wintrow. Wintrow and several other Council members vigorously defended Wintrow’s record in this regard, and advised the citizen to submit any concerns in writing.

• Citizen John Hempfling was sworn in as the newest member of the recently created local justice system task force. The task force recently had its first meeting, according to Council liaison Hempfling. One item discussed was developing a presentation by Chief David Hale concerning how citizens, particularly youth, should respond when stopped by police.

Village Council’s next meeting will be held Monday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.

Contact: ahackett@ysnews.com

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