City Council begins budget review

By Michael Seffrin -

SIDNEY — Sidney City Council Monday night began its review of the 2016 budget, which proposes total expenditures of $46.3 million, including capital outlay. Next year’s operating budget (minus capital spending) is about $27.72 million.

Total expenditures are 42.5 percent lower than this year’s total of $80.5 million. This is because of the timing of capital projects, Finance Officer Ginger Adams explained in her budget message to council.

Next year’s operating budget is slightly lower (0.1 percent) than the 2015 total of $27.76 million.

Fee increases next year are in the range of 1 to 3 percent, Adams said. The notable exception is a proposed 30 percent reduction in the monthly Environmental Protection Agency fee. This reduction is possible because the Ohio EPA approved the modified scope and timing of the wastewater treatment plant improvements, construction bids were within the engineer’s estimate, and lower-cost debt was available.

The average family of four can anticipate roughly a 4 percent reduction in its monthly utility bill, from $108 in 2015 to $104 in 2016. Low-volume users may see their bills drop by 10 percent, from about $57 to $51.

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 7.65 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff next year, including two firefighters and a water plant operator. This would bring the total city staff to 218 FTE, which is 10 percent below the 243 FTE of 2008 when the recession forced the city to lay off employees.

Adams summarized the 2016 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:

– $3.5 million of roadway repairs/reconstructions.

– Construction of new water source.

– Lime sludge lagoon repairs (including new debt).

– Expansion of the sewer plant and sewer distribution system improvements.

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 installation of the new case-management system, including electronic filing with the Civil Division, Gold said. 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 2016, which include improving community relations and implementing solutions to decrease heroin use. The goals also stress training.

Gaier said his department’s goals and objectives include seeking grants to further develop the park system and programs, increasing participation in the Adopt-a-Park program in which groups do maintenance work at a park, and marketing and promotion of the municipal pool to increase attendance. 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. Of interest to motorists is the goal of repairing winter potholes by May 1. Clough said meeting that goal is, of course, dependent on the severity of this winter.

Council will complete review of the budget at its Nov. 9 meeting. The appropriations ordinance will have its first reading at the Nov. 23 meeting and will be up for adoption Dec. 14.

By Michael Seffrin

The writer may be contacted at 937-538-4823 and on Twitter @MikeSeffrinSDN.

The writer may be contacted at 937-538-4823 and on Twitter @MikeSeffrinSDN.