St. C. holds budget hearing

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – City Finance Director Cindi Henry met with County Auditor Andrew Sutak for a budget hearing Tuesday.

According to the city’s budget report for 2014, total revenue is expected to be $11,962,375.38 with expenses of $12,390,090.53.

Sutak noted that state funding will be similar to the prior year. The city intends to put a 1.95 replacement levy on the ballot, with a renewal or replacement to be run next year on a .90 to .95 levy. Sutak noted the passage of levies may be more difficult as state tax laws take effect and Ohio no longer accounts for 12.5 percent of property taxes.

Henry noted that the police department is taking twice the amount that the levies are generating to run. She noted the several levies are bringing in close to $600,000 yearly.

“I know we’re at least down $200,000,” she said, adding that the city also faces such issues as putting out family coverage for health insurance. “It’s killing us.”

They are also awaiting further expenses as health care upgrades take effect. She noted a projected increase of eight-to-nine-percent with issues of spousal coverage to be decided.

Henry also noted issues with municipal income tax regarding gas and oil interests due to their use of independent contractors where reporting is not necessary. Many of the companies that provide the contracts have not responded to the Regional Income Tax Agency. Sutak suggested turning the matter over to the city law director.

They discussed the transfers of the kilowatt per hour tax. Henry noted talk in Columbus about the possibility of repealing the tax, which would mean a loss of close to $200,000.

In police matters, fines and forfeitures may increase with police activity.

Regarding electric services Henry noted the necessity of a rate increase of 10-15 percent, the first raise since 1994. She noted the aging infrastructure and the cost of upkeep, as well as the debt on the substation.

She noted that the sewer and water plant both need to be rebuilt.

Regarding the general fund, Henry said $200,000 would be necessary for appropriation purposes going into next year. She noted the projected $1.6 million expenditures with $1.2 incoming in revenues. The carryover is estimated at $200-$250,000, which will leave a shortage of $150-$200,000.

Discussions turned to the recreation department. Henry noted that the department has no levy and operates through transfers from the general fund to subsidize. Revenue overall is close to $85,000 yearly, but the programs have failed to break even until this year.

The budget runs $3-400,000. Henry noted the expense of the amphitheatre and concert series.

$177,000 has been taken out of the general permanent improvement fund for paving, and close to $100,000 for permanent improvements to the sewer system.

The city will also commence a meter upgrade project, meaning a projected total increase in water, sewer and electric as malfunctioning meters are replaced.

Henry added that the city is no longer selling water to the fracking companies, possibly for fear of backwash issues.

Sutak suggested looking into upgrading the infrastructure in one phase since borrowed rates are currently low and costs may increase with time. They discussed whether permanent improvement funds could be used.

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