City Council begins 2022 budget review

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — Sidney City Council began its review of the 2022 budget, Monday night, which proposes total expenditures (minus capital spending) of $17.9 million, including capital outlay and debt service. Next year’s operating budget is about $56.4 million.

Total expenditures are budgeted to be 5.1% more, or $870,000, than this year’s total of $17.11 million.

Next year’s operating budget is 24% greater than the 2021 total of $45.51 million.

Finance Officer Renee DuLaney 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, have bounced back from since 2019, which was prior to shut-downs due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Utility fee increases over the five year plan are in the 1 to 15% range.

The average family of four can anticipate a 2.83% increase in its monthly utility bill, from $121.10 in 2021 to $124.53 in 2022. Low-volume users may see their bills increase by 1.66%, from about $59.87 in 2021 to $61.53 in 2022.

DuLaney 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% to 2.5% and step increases for those not at the top of the scale;

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

In the budget, the city’s plans to add an additional four staffing positions including: one firefighter/EMT, one police officer, one IT analyst and one part-time street sweeper.

The total city staff of 223.5 FTE in 2020, she said, is 8% below the 243 FTE of 2008, when the recession forced the city to lay off employees.

The estimated 2022 general fund revenue budget, DuLaney said, is projected to be 3% higher than the 2019 actual budget. Without the one-time CARES Act and Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) rebate funds, the 2022 budget is comparable to the 2021 projection.

During a call for questions on the overall budget, Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan noted DuLaney’s report showed the city’s debt service had reduced by 0.7% from 2020 to 2021, and she asked for the reason. DuLaney told her the city’s debt had been refinanced and therefore reduced the debt service.

As the budget review continued on various city departments, council heard a presentation on the parks and recreation department from Director Duane Gaier. He said his department’s goals and objectives include improving the trail system by adding 0.9 miles to the existing system by collaborating with the Shelby County commissioners to acquire right of way or land ownership to extend the trail eventually to Lockington. From there Miami County will work to continue to connect to the previously paved 350 miles of trail.

Gaier intends to seek grants to further develop the park system; work to increase the number of parks adopted in the Adopt-a-Park program, which helps improve city parks’ appearance and safety; and to provide community recreation services. He also outlined improvements at Graceland Cemetery and the Senior Center of Sidney-Shelby County, as well as goals for the city’s summer programs, the concession stand fund and the Sidney Water Park.

Council member Jenny VanMatre reiterated a question to Gaier she was asked about why the pool seemed to close earlier this year. School started later than normal this year, and Gaier said the pool always closes around the middle of August so they had contracted with the pool management company for the typical days the pool is usually open. He also noted they are working on getting more cameras installed in the pool filter house, as they dealt with vandalism last season.

Milligan also asked if the city drone was used to look at trails or to check on maintenance at Tawawa Park. Gaier said, because it would be hard to see the trails or through trees into the park, they have only used the drone for potential city projects.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.