January 30, 2003
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Draft 2003 budget projects Village expenses, revenue will decrease

The Village plans to eliminate paid contract positions this year for the local public access channel and the Village Mediation Program, the draft 2003 Village budget shows. In addition, the Village plans not to add new funds to the green belt fund.

These recommendations, made by Village Manager Rob Hillard, highlight the Village’s concern about shrinking revenue.

The recommended cuts are just two in a series of actions Hillard has implemented over time to decrease the Village’s expenses and help the Village achieve a balanced budget. Last year, for instance, Hillard took over the role of zoning administrator after Terrence Neely was let go from his position as public works director. In another cost cutting move, Village staff members are cleaning the Bryan Community Center now that the Village has “mostly eliminated” a cleaning contract for the building, Hillard said.

Hillard called the moves and recommendations “prudent.”

Presented last week, the draft budget includes day-to-day operation expenses, capital spending and larger goal items. It also includes identified capital projects that cannot be accomplished this year.

The budget is divided into five main categories, including the multi-fund budget, which was formerly called the general fund, and the four Village utilities. The budget is balanced, meaning the Village’s operational costs do not exceed revenues. Having a balanced budget was a goal for Council this year.

Village Council held workshops last week and Wednesday, Jan. 29, to discuss the budget. A third workshop is scheduled for tonight (Thursday), 7 p.m., in the Bryan Center, if it is needed after Wednesday’s meeting. Council will hold a first reading on the 2003 budget at its meeting Feb. 3.

Total revenue is expected to decrease almost 17 percent, or $1.26 million, to $6.19 million this year from $7.4 million in 2002. This decrease is exaggerated, however, because in 2002 the Village received an unexpected increase in its revenues of about $1 million. Multi-fund revenues, for instance, were almost $400,000 more than what was originally budgeted, while the electric system’s revenues were $370,000 higher.

The draft budget shows that total expenditures are expected to decrease almost 1 percent, or $56,000, to almost $6.15 million in 2003 from $6.2 million last year.

“This is a tight, tight budget,” Hillard said during Council’s meeting Jan. 21.

The multi-fund budget

Even though the paid positions for channel 13 and the Village Mediation Program (VMP) are expected to be eliminated, the local cable access channel and VMP are not on the chopping block this year. Both have some expenditures listed in the 2003 budget.

By cutting a paid contracted position for both channel 13 and VMP, the Village would save a total of $27,000. The cuts, however, leave Patti Dallas, the volunteer coordinator for channel 13, and Irvin Foster, the coordinator for VMP, out of paid posts.

Elsie Hevelin, chairwoman of the Cable Advisory Panel, which oversees channel 13, said that the panel is working on plans to keep the station running once Dallas no longer has her paid position. Panel members or other volunteers will make sure programs are available for broadcast, Hevelin said. Three panel members will also help train volunteers, she said.

The panel may arrange to have a volunteer available in the Bryan Center office of channel 13 for an hour five times a week, she said.

Dallas said that she thinks channel 13 cannot be run with volunteers alone, and that the Village needs to pay someone to manage the station.

Cable panel members have said that volunteers should run the station. “It started as a volunteer thing,” Hevelin said. “I think it should stay that way.”

At a meeting Jan. 25, VMP steering committee members agreed to ask Council for an additional $3,000 in order to fund a professional intake worker. While other functions of the VMP can be performed by volunteers, the intake process cannot, they agreed.

The draft budget shows that in 2000 the Village spent $9,762 on personnel costs for channel 13. The following year, that expense increased to $13,275; in 2002, channel 13’s budget was projected to be $13,500.

Dallas, who was hired as the channel’s volunteer coordinator in 2000, had been paid with funds the Village received from Time Warner, the area’s cable provider, through a franchise fee. In 2003, the Village expects to receive $25,000 from Time Warner.

This year, the Village plans not to spend any funds on personnel services, and channel 13’s budget is projected to decrease to $5,000 from $18,000.

It’s a similar story for the Village Mediation Program. Last year, the coordinator, who works part-time, was budgeted to receive $13,000. Under the 2003 budget, the program’s budget is projected to decrease to $4,900 from $15,800.

While the Village may not add additional funds to the green space fund, it is not eliminating the fund, which now has $146,000 for such things as purchasing easements to protect farmland and open space around town.

According to the draft budget, the multi-fund, which includes the parks, streets and police departments, Council, the Village administration and the mayor’s office, is the only one of the Village’s five major funds in which expenditures are projected to outpace revenue. Expenditures are expected to exceed income by $181,000, the budget shows.

Expenditures in the multi-fund budget are projected to increase almost 20 percent, while revenue would decrease 12 percent.

Income tax revenue, which makes up 58 percent of the multi-fund’s revenue, is expected to decrease by $185,000, to $1,325,000 from $1.5 million. The decrease in income taxes can be attributed in part to the closing of Vernay’s largest plant on Dayton Street. The plant is expected to close in September, while the company’s smaller plant will remain open for the foreseeable future, Vernay has said.

The Village expects to lose $80,000 to $100,000 in income taxes this year because of the plant closure.

The budget shows that the Village should end the year with a fund balance of $850,000 in the multi-fund, or 35 percent of the fund’s projected expenses for 2003.

Last year, Council members said they wanted each fund to have a reserve that equals 25 percent, or three months, the fund’s operating costs. Hillard has advocated for fund balances that equal 8 to 12 percent of each fund’s expenditures.

The draft multi-fund budget does include several capital projects, including the purchase of a new police cruiser ($23,000), repainting the Gaunt Park Pool ($13,000), repairing the Bryan Center’s air system ($14,750) and upgrading computer components in the Bryan Center ($18,000). In addition, the streets department plans to conduct almost $190,000 in street maintenance projects this year.

The Village utilities

Based on the draft budget, revenue for all four of the Village’s utilities is expected to exceed expenditures this year.

The biggest difference is in the electric fund, where receipts will outpace expenses by $160,000.

The fund balances for all four utilities are expected to increase this year as well. The fund balances for the electric and water systems will meet Council’s goal for year-end reserves. The electric department is expected to end the year with almost $981,000 in reserves, or 45 percent of this year’s expenditures. The department, however, has a list of unfunded capital needs totaling $1.6 million.

During the budget workshop last week, Council president Tony Arnett said, “Electric is the one fund that has been in good shape in the past,” and that its year-end balance will “go above and beyond” Council’s requirement.

The water department is projected to end the year with $480,000 in reserves, or 85 percent of expenses.

The sewer department’s reserve of $134,000 is only 18 percent of the system’s expenses this year, while solid waste is projected to end the year with a balance of almost $7,900, just 4 percent of its expenses.

Last week, Hillard called the sewer fund “very problematic,” explaining that the Village is “still trying to build” its fund balance. Arnett suggested that the Village take a comprehensive review of the sewer rates.

Like its effect on income tax revenue, the closing of Vernay’s large plant this year will affect the electric, sewer and water systems. The electric department will see the biggest drop in revenue at $125,000. The sewer department expects to lose $22,000 and the water system should lose $17,000.

The budget includes several capital projects for the utilities. The water department wants to provide a water line to the public works facility on State Route 343 ($50,000) and to rebuild the aeration and filter rooms at the treatment plant ($25,000).

The Village also plans to remodel the crew room ($44,000) and replace the overhead doors ($6,000) at the public works facility. Hillard called the remodeling project a “serious need.” “I cannot overemphasize the importance of this project,” he said.


—Robert Mihalek