City Council begins 2021 budget review

By Sheryl Roadcap -

This pie chart shows where general fund expenditures go in the Sidney city budget.

This pie chart shows where general fund expenditures go in the Sidney city budget.

SIDNEY — Sidney City Council began its review of the 2021 budget, Monday night, which proposes total expenditures (minus capital spending) of $43.84 million, including capital outlay and debt service. Next year’s operating budget is about $30.2 million.

Total expenditures are budgeted to be 3.9% less than this year’s total of $52.55 million.

Finance Officer Ginger Adams explained corporations’ direct collections is a volatile source that fluctuate from year to year. She said withholdings, which makes up the majority of the city’s revenue from income tax collections, is slowly recovering from shut downs due to the COVID-19 pandemic earlier in 2020.

Next year’s operating budget is 0.9% greater than the 2020 total of $29.76 million.

Utility fee increases next year are in the 1 to 15% range. The average family of four can anticipate a 3.17% increase in its monthly utility bill, from $117.37 in 2020 to $121.10 in 2021. Low-volume users may see their bills increase by 2.96%, from about $58.15 to $59.87 in 2021.

Adams said key budget assumptions include:

• Conservative estimate of income tax collections in accordance with financial policies;

• Modest inflation rates;

• Capital and staffing the same as the city’s five-year plan;

• Minimum cash reserves achieved in all funds;

• Wage Scale adjustments of 2.25% and step increases for those not at the top of the scale;

• Health insurance premium increase capped at 6% for next year’s renewal.

The city plans to keep certain staffing positions unfilled pending economic recover, Adams said. These positions include: assistant city manager, two firefighters, two police officers, and Sidney Municipal Court deputy clerk and any other vacancies that arise.

The total city staff of 226 FTE in 2020 is 7% below the 243 FTE of 2008, when the recession forced the city to lay off employees.

In closing, Adams summarized the 2021 budget with the following goals:

• Continue to monitor for significant changes in revenue, such as income taxes and state-shared revenues.

• Manage significant changes in expenditures.

• Continue to monitor/manage significant capital projects, including:

– About $3.0 million of roadway repairs/reconstructions;

— Design/engineering and construction of fire station No. 3, with levy passage.

– Nearly $1.3 million of sewer plant and sewer distribution system improvements;

– Approximately $1.9 million of water plant and line replacements.

Council also heard a budget review from Fire Chief Chad Hollinger on the Sidney Department of Fire and Emergency Services during his first budget presentation as Sidney’s new fire chief.

Hollinger told council continued training and education is one of the department’s goals for administration, fire operations and fire prevention.

Responding to emergency calls in a timely manner is a goal of the department, Hollinger said, by getting the times down of which firefighters get out the door, on the truck and on the way to an emergency. Other fire operation goals are to maintain team proficiency, individual skill knowledge and abilities, continue preventative maintenance programs with local regional organizations to improve proficiency and save money. He is considering for Sidney Fire to again work with county fire agencies in conducting fire investigations, opposed to only Sidney Fire conducting all investigations in Shelby County.

Hollinger is looking at ways to save money by using city staff maintenance workers to conduct all possible maintenance on fire equipment apparatus, and also to utilize the same fitness trainer which Sidney Police officers use to help fire department members stay in shape.

From the fire prevention division, the goal is to perform fire safety inspections at targeted hazard businesses/industries, use records management software to enhance operations; provide direct delivery of fire safety education lessons to children pre-K through fifth-grade, adults in the workplace and youngsters court ordered to participate in the Juvenile Fire Setter education program. Also the department aims to provide citizens with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, workforce education opportunities and enhanced fire safety practices.

The department’s total budget for next year is about $5.28 million.

This pie chart shows where general fund expenditures go in the Sidney city budget. pie chart shows where general fund expenditures go in the Sidney city budget.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.