Dec
07
2019
Yellow Springs
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clear sky
humidity: 64%
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H 32 • L 31
Village Council

Council closes in on 2020 budget

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Next year the Village of Yellow Springs is projected to bring in $13.9 million and spend $15.4 million, according to a draft budget Council considered at its Nov. 4 meeting.

It’s the second straight year the Village has forecast deficit spending.

However, despite a half million deficit projected for 2019, the Village is likely going to come out even — or even slightly ahead — this year, according to Village Finance Director Colleen Harris in an interview.

“We are expecting a balanced budget at the end of the year,” Harris said.

As of the end of the third quarter of 2019, the Village had brought about $11.4 million and spent $10.6 million.

Next year’s total projected deficit of $1.4 million also probably won’t come to pass, Harris noted.

Still, a deficit of some size at the end of 2020 looks likely, she said.

That’s especially the case for the Village’s general fund, which supports the police, streets, parks, pool and more, and makes up 27% of the total budget. With expenses set to rise to $4.1 million, a $646,000 loss is projected in that fund next year.

“That will be a stretch to get it to balance,” Harris said of next year’s general fund budget.

Previously, the Village ended with surpluses of about $500,000 in 2018 and $700,000 in 2017.

Council members have been discussing the 2020 budget since September and must approve it by the end of the year. A first reading is set for its next meeting, Monday, Nov. 18.

Reflecting on the state of municipal finances, Village Council President Brian Housh said “things are looking a little bit better” but that it’s important the Village continue to “tighten up” its expenses. That’s because costs to upgrade infrastructure are rising, while state and federal support of local governments has fallen.

“It’s gonna get expensive,” Housh said of maintaining local infrastructure.

By the end of the year, the Village will have spent about $900,000 on infrastructure, or “capital projects,” a figure which is projected to grow to about $1.4 million in both 2020 and 2021.

Harris sees those cost increases as temporary to deal with deferred maintenance.

“The next two years will be a big push, and hopefully it will go down from there,” she said.

In 2020, the Village is set to spend the following on capital improvements: $384,500 for the electric system, $323,000 for sewers, $303,000 for the water system, $206,000 for streets and $61,500 for parks.

In recent meetings, Council discussed the following itemized expenses in the current version of the draft budget, which is subject to change:

• $10,000 for defibrillators in each of the 10 municipal departments
• $10,000 for three new test wells in the municipal wellfield
• Up to $10,500 in upgrades at the Gaunt Park ball fields; Council members encouraged cost-sharing with the local schools, who use the fields
• $15,000 for the Yellow Springs Senior Center (mostly utility cost offsets)
• $15,000 for a flashing crosswalk sign at Short Street and Xenia Avenue
• $20,000 for a small, electric meter
reader car
• $20,500 for sidewalk grinding, in addition to $50,000 for other sidewalk repairs
• $25,000 for a part-time communications staff member
• $30,000 for a grant writer
• $30,000 for Home, Inc.’s Glen Cottages development on Xenia Avenue, the second grant to the project in as many years
• $36,000 for a bridge over the spillway at Ellis Park and another small bridge at the park
• $36,000 to explore the purchase of a sludge press at the wastewater treatment plant; the purchase may save the Village money in its cost to dispose its treated sewage sludge
• $65,000 for part-time in-house legal counsel; additional legal fees using outside legal experts are also budgeted
• $75,000-plus to turn one restroom at the public library into an ADA-compliant restroom; the high cost is due to the concrete block construction of the Village building
• $215,000 to paint the Village’s water towers
• $225,000 for a new pole barn at the Sutton Farm for electric equipment storage

In other Council business—

Citizens involved in police discipline

Council briefly discussed the work of an ad hoc citizen committee recently formed to address a possible disciplinary issue involving local police officers.

Three citizens, one Council member and the Village’s HR director are currently meeting to discuss the facts of a case in which two local officers responded to a domestic violence call in the village. The officers’ actions on that call are being reviewed for a possible policy violation.

The citizens are acting in an advisory capacity to the Village manager, and according to Council Member Lisa Kreeger at the meeting, and the effort is a “pilot project” for incorporating more community input into personnel matters.

Kreeger added that all parties consented to the new process and that the officers did not waive their rights to the disciplinary process outlined in the personnel manual.

“I do want to make the point that all participants, both the community members and employees of the Village, voluntarily consented to piloting this,” she said.

More information on the process will be in an upcoming issue of the News.

New solicitor sought

The Village will be seeking a new solicitor in 2020. Council members said the move comes as a way to reduce legal costs. Council reviewed a draft RFQ that also included a new way to pay for legal services. Instead of a retainer model, the Village is looking for part-time in-house legal counsel with specific municipal expertise. Outside legal services in other areas may be additionally contracted.

Chris Conard has served as Village solicitor for the last five years, succeeding John Chambers, also of the Coolidge Wall law firm, who was the town’s solicitor for the 11 years prior. Legal expenses were $129,465 in 2018, according to the budget.

Justice committee under manager

The Village is moving forward with a Justice System Advisory Committee under the auspices of the Village Manager’s office rather than an official commission of Council. The five- to seven-member group may include a Council member, Salmerón said in response to a question from Council.

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