By Joy Brown
FINDLAY, Ohio — Findlay's capital improvements fund will be getting $1 million extra next year, thanks to the city's healthy cash balance.
City Council members at Thursday's annual budget hearings agreed to an administration suggestion to transfer that sum from what is projected to be a $6.1 million cash balance when this year ends.
The capital improvements fund has been "shortchanged for a long time," said Service-Safety Director Paul Schmelzer.
Council also plans to change the division of city income tax revenue between the general fund and capital improvements next year. Capital improvements will be bumped up from 10 percent to 15 percent. Council is expected to periodically shuttle money to capital improvements through the year as revenue streams in.
Administrators also said they're working on a five-year capital improvements plan that will identify needs.
Officials said they are choosing not to balance the 2013 general fund budget, in exchange for the beginning of long-term planning. More of the cash balance will be used to cover the difference between general fund revenue and expenses.
Auditor Jim Staschiak said the city's mandated minimum cash balance is about $3 million.
Mayor Lydia Mihalik said city officials hope to hire Six Disciplines, a Findlay company, to help with long-term planning. She said solutions will be "comprehensive" and will involve council's input.
Strategic planning expenses are included in the $177,563 budget for a Human Resources Department. Council members said they agree with creation of that department.
The department's budget includes $80,000 to pay a director. Mihalik said she is already reviewing proposals from job candidates who have approached her.
Councilman-At-Large Jerry Murray initially expressed skepticism about hiring Six Disciplines, but then backtracked in support of planning, particularly as Schmelzer talked about the possibility of still needing to use money from the cash balance for general fund operations in 2014.
"If we're not careful we'll be just as wasteful as our predecessors," Murray said, thereby angering some of his tired colleagues near the end of a five-and-a-half-hour meeting.
"You are starting to raise some hackles on my back," said 6th Ward Councilman Bill Schedel. "The decisions that were made are the same as they are now. They're ever-changing. So please don't keep bringing that up."
"I hear what you're saying, but it is a matter of planning," Murray said.
At its first meeting of 2013, council will vote on the city's overall budget. Regardless of the cash balance brought forward from 2012, council is expected to approve $24.7 million in general fund spending.
That spending plan will reflect several staffing cuts, particularly 21 employees from the Fire Department.
Fire Chief Tom Lonyo said the layoffs will likely occur on May 12, shortly after a federal job retention grant expires.
Fire Station 4 will tentatively close on that date, too.
The cuts will reduce the Fire Department's on-duty staffing from 17 firefighters to about a dozen, Lonyo said. The average age of firefighters will rise from 40 to 45 because of civil service rules that require people with the least seniority to be let go first.
The Police Department also will be reducing positions, but through attrition. Four vacancies have not been filled after officers left this year, and two more officers are expected to leave.
Copyright 2012 Courier, The (Findlay, OH)
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