Bellaire financial situation bleak

BELLAIRE – The current financial situation for the village of Bellaire is bleak.

It’s been known, but fiscal officer Tom Sable re-emphasized that point during Thursday’s meeting when he threw out quite a large number and paired it with the term “deficit.”

The discussion began during a back-and-forth about the ongoing question of raises for the police department.

Sable talked at length multiple times about finances and government accounting.

He also threw out this figure – $435,000.

That, Sable explained, is the village’s projected deficit moving forward in 2014.

It’s such a large figure that Bellaire officials, after dropping off their potential budget earlier this summer to the county auditor’s office, were called back to go over the numbers again and to make sure there wasn’t some calculation error.

There wasn’t.

The village is looking at a sizable hole in its general fund.

Should tax collections come in higher than expected, the best-case scenario at this point is that deficit is reduced to the range of $235,000-$240,000.

But that’s still a significant deficit that will have to be overcome.

Sable believes the finger pointing needs to start at the top; or, in this case, in Columbus.

“We’ve lost a total of $240,000 (yearly) from the local government funds we receive,” Sable noted.

Sable has noted previously that he feels the Ohio State house and Governor “have continued their efforts to balance the Ohio deficit, and I feel that it has been at the expense of our local government dollars that flow back to our counties, townships, villages, park district, etc.”

Potentially further burdening the village’s coffers, the passage of House Bill 59 may lead to additional cuts to local government funding.

What that means is further updates to revenue coming into counties and local municipalities may dwindle even further by Jan. 1.

“I’m not sure how much more we can take,” Sable said.

Because of how government accounting is conducting, Bellaire could have a huge surplus in one of its enterprise funds, like water or sanitation, and could in no way benefit the general fund.

The general fund can be bolstered in one of two main ways: cuts to services or an increase in revenue via either an income tax or support levy.

The police department has attempted to get a levy passed in the past with no success.

Bellaire’s current income tax rate is the highest it can be without voter approval for an increase.

Given the recent string of levy defeats in town, neither raising the income tax nor a police levy seems to be a viable option.

Bellaire officials seem poised to have some tough decisions ahead of them as the calendar rolls into 2014.