Council begins budget review

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — Sidney City Council began its review of the 2017 budget, which proposes total expenditures of $48.9 million during Monday night’s meeting. Next years’s operating budget is approximately $28.2 million.

Next year’s operating budget increased by $207,00 (0.7 percent) compared with the 2016 total of $28,015,161.

Fee increases next year are in the range of 1 to 3 percent range. Ginger Adams, finance director, said given the proposed 2017 rate changes, the average family of four could see roughly a 2.9 percent increase in their monthly utility bill, from $104 in 2016 to $107 in 2017. Low-volume users may see their bills increase by 2.8 percent, from about $51.35 to $52.80.

Adams said key budget assumptions include:

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

• Modest inflation rates.

• Capital and staffing per the city’s five-year plan (with few capital project and staffing adjustments).

• Minimum cash reserves achieved in all funds.

The city plans to add 3.41 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff next year, including two police officers and a cemetery equipment operator. This would bring the total city staff to 219 FTE, which is 10 percent below the 243 FTE of 2008 when the recession forced the city to lay off employees.

Adams said the city has an increasing dependence upon income tax, which makes Sidney vulnerable when the next recession comes along. In 2017, 73 percent of the city’s general fund’s revenue is projected to derive from income tax.

Adams summarized the 2017 budget by saying the city will:

• Monitor for significant changes in income taxes, state-shared revenues, or unexpected expenses.

• Monitor/manage significant capital projects, including:

— $4 million of roadway repairs/reconstructions.

— Completion of new water source.

— Planning for north-end fire station.

As the budget review continued, council heard presentations from Sidney Municipal Court (Clerk Bonnie Gold), Police Department (Chief Will Balling), Parks & Recreation Department (Director Duane Gaier) and Public Works Department (Assistant City Manager/Public Works Director Gary Clough).

Among projects planned in Municipal Court next year is to complete transition of the new case-management system, Courtview, including the online docket and image access of public records. This is part of a countywide project that includes Shelby County Common Pleas Court.

Balling outlined the Police Department’s numerous goals and objectives for 2017 which include continuing to improve community relations and implementing solutions to decrease heroin use. The police department plans to bring on two additional police officers to help with heroin epidemic and lighten the load during highest call times. These officers will work split-shift from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Balling said he does not know yet, but hopes to continue the Citizen Police Academy in 2017. He said currently there are 15 people on a waiting list to take the 10-week course.

Gaier said his department’s goals and objectives include seeking grants for the summer food program and to increase donations for the backpack program, and other parks programs. He plans to review and replace low attendance recreational programs with new ones. He also outlined improvements at Graceland Cemetery and the Senior Center, for which his department is responsible.

Clough reviewed goals and objectives for the many divisions that fall under public works; street lighting, engineering, urban forestry, streets, winter maintenance, water, underground utilities, sewer, stormwater, public transit, airport, service center, garage/fleet, and solid waste.

During Clough’s review, there was a short discussion about compressed natural gas fuels as an alternative fuel for city vehicles. However, it was noted that unless the fueling station was a “multi-jurisdictional endeavor” it would be too costly for the city to start alone.

Council will complete the review of the budget at its Nov. 14 meeting. The appropriations ordinance will have its first reading at the Nov. 28 meeting and it will be up for adoption on Dec. 12.

At the top of the meeting, council briefly discussed the potential of the city to hire a marketing recruiter, like the Buxton, to revitalize Sidney. Buxton representative, Dennis Maher, who previously presented council with an overview of Buxton’s services at the workshop session on Oct. 3. was present to address council’s questions. Buxton requires a three-year contract with an annual fee of $50,000.

Mayor Mike Barhorst asked council if they were inclined to spend the money or not, before continuing the discussion. After City Manager Mark Cundiff shared that the city’s budget allows for up to $50,000 annually for revitalization efforts, the consensus was to move forward. Council members then agreed city staff should make a recommendation to them of which agency to hire, as the city had been recently contacted by a Buxton competitor.

Two cases are scheduled for the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting on Nov. 21. And one potential case is scheduled for the Planning Commission meeting, depending on the outcome of ZBA meeting.

Barhorst thanked everyone who made the Shelby County United Way fundraiser campaign successful.

Councilmember Steve Wagner inquired about the status of the Environmental Protection Agency clean-up effort at the former Wagner Ware building. It was reported that the clean-up of the toxic materials is still on-going.

Council also set next year’s Beggar’s Night again for Halloween night, in 2017.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.