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Village Council

Village finances— Revenues steady, expenses rise

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As Village Council members took their first vote on the 2020 budget at their Dec. 2 regular meeting, they also briefly discussed the state of municipal finances.

Local revenues that support Village services have been steady in recent years. At the same time, expenses have been rising, according to Village Finance Director Colleen Harris.

“Expenditures always go up and our revenue has been pretty level. It’s a concern,” she said.

“It’s something that we try to watch so we can plan,” Harris added.

At the meeting Council passed 4–0 the first reading of its 2020 budget, which sets expenses at $15.4 million, about a half million dollars higher than projected revenues of $13.9 million. Kineta Sanford was absent.

Expenses next year are projected to be about 5% higher than last year’s budget of $14.7 million.

Addressing the issue of rising costs, Village leaders pointed to the sharp increase in spending for local infrastructure.

“We are spending more than we are taking in but a lot of that is because of capital improvements,” explained Village Manager Josué Salmerón.

Looking ahead, the Village isn’t likely to stay in the black if it continues to spend as much as it has on capital improvements, said Harris in response to a question from Council.

“If we continue with the aggressive capital, no, we won’t be able to [stay in the black],” Harris said.

About one more year of funds has been set aside to address capital needs, Harris added.

As a result, Council President Brian Housh said that if the Village wanted to keep on track with capital improvements, it would have to cut into the general fund.

Harris responded that that fund is already showing signs of stress.

“It’s already stretched just supporting the streets and the parks, along with everything else the general fund does,” Harris said.

The Village’s general fund, which is typically used as a barometer for fiscal health, funds the streets, parks, pool, administration and more. The majority of the rest of the budget is to run the local electric, water and wastewater systems and those funds are designed to be self-sustaining.

Harris said she closely monitors the general fund’s revenues, the largest sources of which are income tax and property tax, and also includes tax money shared from the state.

Local income tax receipts were $1.53 million in 2014, $1.51 million in 2015 and $1.57 million in 2016, then rose to $1.84 million in 2017, falling to $1.81 million in 2018, according to municipal figures. Harris projects the Village will receive $1.8 million next year.

However, next year’s deficit probably won’t reach the half million point currently projected, according to Salmerón.

“Colleen is very liberal on our expenses and very conservative in our revenues,” Salmerón said.

Still, the Village is likely to end 2020 in the red, according to local leaders. By contrast, the Village is on its way to balancing its budget in 2019, and it reaped surpluses of about $500,000 in 2018 and $700,000 in 2017.

It’s those funds that are now being put to use to upgrade local infrastructure, Salmerón explained.

“There have been significant savings over the years to be able to make those improvements in 2020,” he said.

Stricter rules for junk vehicles

Council cut the amount of time junk vehicles can sit on local properties, amending two ordinances in a 4–0 vote.

Property owners will now have seven days to remove a junk vehicle from their property before being given a citation for a minor misdemeanor. After that they have an additional 15 days to remove the vehicle, or the Village will remove it themselves.

Previously, property owners had 30 days to remove the vehicle and could apply for a 60-day extension. But according to Village Planning and Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger, those rules became difficult to enforce because of the length of time.

“We’ve had some cases where that was becoming a problem,” she said.

One of the Village’s main concerns: the environmental impact of junk vehicles, Swinger said.

“As a community we have to be concerned,” she said, adding, “There’s a lot of contamination.”

Contaminants that could spread into the soil and groundwater from junk vehicles include motor oil, antifreeze, radiator fluids, brake fluids, battery fluids and more, Swinger said.

“We’ve seen a lot of these showing up on private properties that are just becoming a part of the Earth over time,” she said.

The changes to the ordinance also fix a discrepancy between the Village’s zoning code, which prohibited junk vehicles entirely, and the police offenses section of the codified ordinances, which allowed one per property for the time period. Now junk vehicles are only mentioned in the police offenses section of the ordinances.

According to the language, “improper storage” refers to the storing outdoors of an unlicensed vehicle, a damaged vehicle or an inoperable historic or collector vehicle. Such vehicles may, however, be kept in a garage.

Swinger added that “there is a distinction between a car that just broke down and a junk vehicle.”

“These have been abandoned, or they are just left in a driveway,” she said.

The Village is also planning to offer help to those having difficulty fixing their vehicle or getting to work without their vehicle through the YS Police Department’s community outreach specialist.

Right on red allowed at Dayton/Enon

Motorists will now be able to turn right on red at the intersection of Dayton Street and East Enon Road during all hours of the day.

Council passed an ordinance 4–0 striking the intersection as one of two in the village that banned right turns on red during school hours, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Salmerón briefly explained the change.

“It is not required because it is not in a school zone,” he said.

The other intersection at which right turns on red are banned during school hours is Limestone Street and Xenia Avenue.

From the floor, Laura Curliss asked why the prohibition on right turns isn’t only when school is starting or letting out, but the entire day. No answer was provided.

Other items from Council’s Dec. 2 meeting will be in next week’s News.

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