Bellaire council passes budget

BELLAIRE – Village council held a special session on Thursday night in order to pass the 2014 budget, which has been balanced and will be presented to the county auditor and the county budget commission on March 31.

In order to balance the general fund, which had a projected deficit in excess of $100,000, money was taken primarily from the safety forces.

“There was no other department or combination thereof that could come up with that large of an amount,” Treasurer Tom Sable said. “I virtually shut down every department in the general fund, and I couldn’t come up with $116,000. So, I had to go to where the largest amount of money was available to take it from in order to balance the budget,” he explained.

Although this decision leaves Bellaire Police Department fiscally shorthanded this year, it will not ultimately result in a village that is under-serviced in this regard. Essentially, the department will function on what funds are available to it after the approximately $100,000 is removed. When its funding becomes low, council will reapportion funds from another area in order to keep the department where it needs to be.

“It’s a temporary fix to a long-term problem,” Councilman Josh Meyer said, explaining that future changes will have to be made to further organize and strengthen the budget. “I honestly believe we’ll get there. It’s just going to take some work. We’re going to have to dig deep and work hard, and we will.”

Council has encountered similar budget issues in the past, which were also solved with a likewise reapportioning of finances. Despite the decisions required to balance this year’s budget, village citizens should see no difference in the police department’s ability to function and maintain a safe city.

“This isn’t anything I haven’t had to do before,” Sable said, explaining that the only other solution to balance the budget this time around was to cut the health insurance program for the employees of the general fund.

Sable explained that rather than taking a percentage of the appropriations from several different places, which can be quite difficult to manage when it comes time to put those funds back, it’s much easier to take a lump sum from one area and return it throughout the year.

“It’s best if you can find one fund that you can take it from, so that you can monitor that fund and feed it right back into there,” he said.

Police Chief Mike Kovalyk was understanding of council’s decision and confident that it will have minimal effect on his department in the long run.

“I understand the seriousness of the issues brought about, and I appreciate Mr. Sable’s difficulty in the times and trying to come to a sensible conclusion,” Kovalyk said. “I understand that things have to be compromised to a certain extent. Hopefully by the end of the year, things will improve. But what we don’t want to see happen is a further compromise of public safety and officer safety.

“We have an obligation to protect the people of this town and anybody who comes into this town,” he said, “but we also understand there are situations that make what has been done today necessary. We need a team effort by everybody – not only in this room, but everybody who works for this town.

“I think we can be optimistic that things will come to a good conclusion by the end of the year,” he said.

Councilman Jerry Fisher was not present during Thursday night’s session.

Scott can be reached at jscott@timesleaderonline.com.