Village Council drills down on budget
- Published: December 6, 2021
At its regular meeting on Nov. 15, held via Zoom, Village Council took several steps toward appropriating funds for the 2022 budget, which will be voted on at its Dec. 6 meeting.
These decisions come after a series of budget work sessions, held on Oct. 11, Oct. 22 and Nov. 11, which focused on the financial health and 2022 budget of the village.
Each work session focused on different aspects of the budget. As reported in the Oct. 21 edition of the News, the first of the three meetings was held to “power through a lot of the high-level detail within the budget,” according to Finance Director Matt Dillon.
Since that meeting, the Village’s financial outlook has changed. At Council’s Oct. 22 budget work session, Village Manager Josué Salmerón said that he and Dillon had revisited the numbers, which showed a much smaller deficit than first reported.
“We are being a little less conservative with our projections and that resulted in a significant increase in our revenues,” he said.
Dillon said that new projections showed the budget having a $175,541 deficit, which is $281,094 lower than the $456,635 deficit reported at the Oct. 11 budget work session.
The rest of the work session included a discussion of cost-saving options, including cross-training members of the police department and EMS for joint services, finding shifts where the police department could reduce the number of officers on duty, returning the responsibility of sidewalk maintenance over to property owners, and making Village employees responsible for a greater portion of their healthcare deductibles.
Council’s Nov. 11 budget work session focused on capital, enterprises and special revenues.
These budgets include funding for the John Bryan Community Center, the Gaunt Park Pool, and streets. Dillon explained that many of these funds are supported through taxes and fees paid by villagers; for example, street repairs are funded in part by fees villagers pay when renewing their driver’s licenses. Salmerón said that the Village has continued to find cost-saving opportunities to make Village services affordable.
“Part of the affordability work we are doing is trying to limit any rate increases for as long as we can,” he said.
Council’s Nov. 15 regular meeting, then, was a culmination of the meetings. Council President Brian Housh said that he was pleased with their progress.
“Our budget work sessions have been very productive,” he said. “It’s very important to think about what we are doing as a village.”
Salmerón referenced a list of projects that were not recommended for the 2022 budget, saying that there were a few items on the list that may be emergency expenditures, such as unexpected maintenance on the wastewater lift station.
“We may be forced to make a decision without talking about it,” he said. “One of the things that worries me is the Microsoft Office exchange vulnerabilities. … We may have to spend $12,000 on Office 365 licenses.”
Members of the village administration, including Salmerón, Dillon and Public Works Director Johnnie Burns, presented a recommended budget to Council members, who deliberated on expenditures, deciding whether to approve or amend the proposed dollar amounts. Council made a total of five budget motions that passed unanimously.
Council member Laura Curliss made a motion to add $15,000 for a citizen’s review board “to get it going.”
“[Money for a citizen’s review board] being in the budget means that we still have to go through a decision making process about how and if it is spent,” Housh said.
Dillon asked that Council make a motion so that a department could be set up for the citizen’s review board.
“We don’t really earmark money,” he said.
Curliss also moved to add $15,000 for a wetland delineation study of the Glass Farm.
“I think it is important just so we can know what direction to go with that land,” Curliss said.
Council member Marianne MacQueen said that she would like to see the number upped to $18,000 for a conservation development plan “depending on how the wetland study turns out.”
In accordance with recommendations from Curliss and Burns, Council voted on adding $45,000 for a parking lot on Cemetery Street and the creation of a parking app to reduce the amount of signage downtown.
MacQueen moved to add $25,000 to extend the Climate Action Sustainability Plan process into the first half of 2022. She proposed using renewable energy credits, or RECs, to pay for the extension of the contract.
“The five months that have been allotted is not enough time,” she said. “I think that extending the timeline by six months will give an opportunity to access grants that aren’t available right now.”
Burns and Village Solicitor Breanne Parcels cautioned against selling RECs to pay for the extension, citing contractual obligations and the need to sell RECs for infrastructure growth and improvement.
“I am highly against selling any RECs until June of this coming year,” Burns said.
The final motion was to add $30,000 for Home, Inc.’s affordable housing needs.
“If they can get some pre-development money from the Village, it will help them get more predevelopment money from other sources,” MacQueen said.
Council member Kevin Stokes said that Council should consider investing in Home, Inc. with the same mindset that they used when they decided to purchase the 10 Lawson Place apartments.
“We are all familiar with the small amounts of money that we’ve donated or invested in YS Home, Inc. projects in the past and the return on those investments has been quite considerable,” he said. “We’ve done the work that we said we were going to do and as a result we are being presented with an opportunity to make an investment.”
Curliss asked about the number of units that are being considered, citing parking issues with a larger structure. Stokes said that the Lawson place purchase would only maintain the number of affordable homes, and that this project would create 28 additional homes.
Council members Lisa Kreeger and Housh said that the money was being approved for a fund only, and that setting aside the funds would eliminate the need for a supplemental budget vote in the future.
“We aren’t approving a project,” Kreeger said. “We are just saying that theoretically we are indicating that $30,000 will go toward a project we have yet to hear about.”
Kreeger added that the defeat of the school levy indicated a need for the Village to invest in projects that would bring young families to the community.
“What I see is a slippery slope to an affluent senior community,” she said. “My reaction to the result is to say that the Village has no choice but to double down on any kind of investment that will make it more affordable for young families to get into the community given that we are not investing in education.”
After all of the motions were approved, Housh asked that Dillon present a budget at the next Council meeting that included the changes.
In a follow-up email, Dillon explained that Council’s decisions at the Nov. 15 meeting will be finalized when Council votes on the 2022 budget ordinance at their Monday, Dec. 6, meeting.
“While the motions were voted to be included in the 2022 budget ordinance, they will not receive final approval until council votes on the actual budget ordinance,” Dillon wrote.
In other Council business, Nov. 15:
• Council passed a resolution to continue the tradition of distributing flour and sugar to village widows and widowers, as requested by Wheeling Gaunt in his will. According to Salmerón, recipients will have the option of receiving gluten-free flour.
• Council passed a resolution in opposition to House Bill 175, which would roll back regulations on ephemeral streams. MacQueen described the streams as the “capillaries” of our natural water system, and explained that care for these streams is crucial in maintaining natural water sources throughout the state.
• In collaboration with the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce, the Village of Yellow Springs will host a tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 4. The ceremony will take place across from Mills Lawn in front of the Jackson, Lytle & Lewis funeral home. The World House Choir will sing carols and there will be hot chocolate and snacks available for participants.
• Salmerón expressed his pleasure at the recent well-attended mobile mammography event. He is in the process of organizing another event, slated for January, and is looking into a health expo in early 2022.