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Council plans for deficit in 2019

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The Village of Yellow Springs plans to spend about a half million dollars more than it brings in next year, according to a draft budget Council considered at its Nov. 19 meeting.

Next year the Village is set to raise $3.4 million and spend $3.9 million, according to the latest version of the general fund budget.

The general fund covers the budgets of the Village administration, police department, Council and commissions, Mayor’s Court, planning department and more, and makes up 27 percent of the total municipal budget.

Data courtesy of Village of Yellow Springs

Data courtesy of Village of Yellow Springs

The projected general fund deficit of $472,045 will draw down the general fund reserves to $1.6 million by the end of 2019.

That reserve balance is still considered to be healthy, however, as it represents more than four months of current expenses, according to Village Finance Director Colleen Harris in recent meetings. In addition, the Village is on track to see a $515,028 general fund surplus for the year ending 2018, Harris confirmed.

Revenue for the general fund, which comes mostly from local taxes, has remained steady over the last few years. Although the state is collecting, and thus sharing, less tax money with municipalities, the local lodging tax that went into effect this year is making up some of that deficit, and is projected to bring in $40,000 in 2019.

“It’s been a good supplement to the general fund’s income,” Harris said of the lodging tax.

Meanwhile, general fund expenses are up in 2019 due to capital projecs and Harris’ desire to not “underbudget.”

The Village’s enterprise funds — the Village’s utility funds for electric, water, sewer and solid waste — which are designed to be self-sustaining from user fees, are also in a good position, according to Harris. 

That’s even with plans to spend $919,250  — across all funds — for capital improvements next year, according to Harris’ figures. This spending represents a major increase after years of deferred maintenance, Village officials have said.

“We now have good reserves and we’re still able to put money aside for these projects,” Harris said this week. 

Enterprise funds make up close to $9 million of the total Village-wide budget of $14.7 million. Special revenue funds, designated for services and amenities such as streets, parks and greenspace, comprise $1.7 million of the total budget.

Council members have been discussing the budget since October and must approve it by the end of the year.

Although the final budget is not set, Council has come to tentative decisions on several issues. 

For one, planned utility rate hikes will move ahead next year, even with robust enterprise funds. Village officials had urged Council to continue the rate hikes, originally set up in 2015, due to the pressing infrastructure needs over the next several years.

Electric consumers will see a $1 per month increase in their readiness-for-service charge in 2019. The cost for municipal water will grow 2.9 percent, while sewer costs will rise 15 percent.

In addition, at its Nov. 19 meeting, Council voted unanimously to tentatively include in the budget $60,000 for Home, Inc. over two years in support of Glen Cottages, the local land trust’s affordable pocket neighborhood on Xenia Avenue. 

Council also provisionally approved $30,000 for professional services in the police department budget to possibly hire a consultant to look at local police policy and practices and $15,000 for Mayor’s Court in the event a part-time prosecutor is hired midway through the year.

Budget discussions will continue at Council’s regular meeting on Dec. 3. 

In other Council business —

• Gaunt statue set for park

A life-size bronze sculpture of 19th century resident and philanthropist Wheeling Gaunt will be placed at Hilda Rahn Park, according to a resolution Council unanimously passed.

The Village-owned park, named after a longtime Village employee, is located at the intersection of U.S. 68 and Dayton Street and hosts the train station. 

The Yellow Springs Arts Council, organizer of the sculpture project, agrees to care for and maintain the sculpture, according to the resolution. It also stipulates that altering or removing the sculpture should be done in cooperation with Council, the Village Manager and the Arts Council.

The effort to erect a monument to Gaunt, a former slave and generous early African-American resident of the village, began a little over a year ago. Funds are currently being raised for the sculpture, which will be produced by Brian Maughan and will cost an estimated $169,000. Plans call for the sculpture to be complete in 2020 and be accompanied by a mural. 

• Surveillance policy now law

Any new surveillance technology the police department or other municipal agency wants to use must first be approved by Council at a public hearing, according to a new ordinance. Council approved the second reading of the ordinance 5–0.

Ellis Jacobs, who worked on the ordinance’s language as a member of a Justice System Task Force subcommittee, said the measure is the first in the state.

“Yellow Springs will be the first municipality in the state to pass an ordinance like this — I don’t think we’ll be the last,” he said. 

Bates affirmed at the meeting that the measure only applies to the Village’s use of surveillance technology, and would not regulate technology used by outside agencies operating in town. 

In addition, Bates clarified that if a state of emergency were to be declared, a smaller group consisting of the police chief, Council president and village manager could approve the use of surveillance technology for a limited time period. 

• Justice Commission moves ahead

Council members approved in a 5–0 vote the first reading of an ordinance that creates a standing Justice System Commission. If it passes, it would be the Village’s 11th official board or commission.

Three villagers spoke from the floor during the deliberations about their concerns with having police officers as ex-officio nonvoting members of the commission.

Shawn Tulecke-Paulson spoke as a member of a citizen group, the Yellow Springs Police Accountability Coalition. 

“We do not think it is appropriate to have the police as a member to a group that is purportedly to reform the police,”  Tulecke-Paulson said, speaking for the coalition. “It’s just inappropriate.”

Two other citizens also spoke against that provision of the commission, while Council President Brian Housh and Vice President Marianne MacQueen defended it.

“The most effective way to change the system is to involve the people in the system in making the change,” MacQueen said.

• Citizens concerns aired

Citizens shared their thoughts with Council during the Citizens Concerns portion of the meeting. 

Patrick Lake suggested that the Village require officers to reside in the village to promote trust between law enforcement and citizens. 

Kevin McGruder spoke in favor of a proposal to the Village to support Home, Inc. with a $60,000 donation.

Corey White read a proposed resolution from the Yellow Springs Police Accountability Coalition that would affirm the Village’s support for the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop and let the festivities proceed without police interference until 1 a.m. Tulecke-Paulson of the coalition then pressed Council members to respond to the proposed resolution and asked for an apology from a Council member, before Housh called a brief recess when Tulecke-Paulson continued to push for a response. During the recess, Housh, who was then accompanied by a police officer, asked Tulecke-Paulson to return to his seat, which he did.

• Next meeting

Council’s next regular meeting is Monday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.

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