Bellaire budget facing challenges in FY 2013

BELLAIRE – Fiscal Year 2013 figures to be an interesting one in the village of Bellaire.

It will certainly pose some challenges.

Council passed its temporary appropriations budget for 2013 during Thursday’s council meeting.

Following passage, Clerk Tom Sable outlined some of the challenges council members will face moving forward.

And while to overall picture is looking better than Sable originally outlined earlier this year, it’s far from rosy.

“This temporary budget will get us through until the end of March but we must be prepared for the long haul,” Sable said. “It’s going to come down to our safety forces and we have to address some issues with how we’re going to fund those forces.”

The general fund budget total is $963,867, according to the appropriation ordinance. Of that total, the police department total is $455,440.

That’s a sizable chunk and one the fuels one of the more vital services village government provides.

The approximate carryover balances into the first quarter of 2013 are as follows:

Street department: $81,000

Water department: $123,000

Sanitation department: $68,500

General fund: $24,400.

It’s easy to see where the problem is located. There already is a shortage of funding for the general fund.

And unlike the other department and enterprise funds, the general fund is not set up as a money-making fund.

It’s money primarily comes from tax money. Meaning there are basically two ways to rectify a funding shortfall … more taxes or less services. Neither of those are a feasible option for Bellaire.

Sable and council members all commented on how important the police department and its efforts are to the village.

Bellaire’s income tax rate is already set at 1-percent, meaning any increase would need to be approved by the citizenry. All one has to do is look to St. Clairsville’s recent history to see the prospects of getting that type of plan approved.

Sable nor council even broached the possibility of increasing the income tax.

The good news is that Bellaire took in $735,000 in tax dollars. That was $35,000 more than was projected.

But when Sable issued his budget for 2013, he set the tax dollar amount at $600,000, a conservative estimate.

“Our general fund is in a deficit position going forward,” Sable said. “When we reach $600,000 in tax collections, we can be re-certified for more but I felt it was better to come in over the certified amount than under.”

The original budget submission had Bellaire certified for a $304,000 deficit. That number has since dwindled to $200,000.

Sable said, best case scenario, if the village can take in the tax collections near the 2012 totals, it will still have a deficit in the $65,000 range. A safer estimate, he said, was likely around $200,000.

A major problem is the cuts in local government funding that have been mandated out of Columbus, the impacts of which have reverberated throughout smaller communities across the Buckeye State.

“In the last three years, we’ve lost around $240,000 in local government funding,” Sable said.

He asked members of council to go home and think up some ideas, any ideas, to bring back to the next meeting, and the meeting after, and so on, in effort to try to combat this impending budget issue.

Hughes may be reached at