BELLAIRE - The village's Finance Committee held a meeting on Monday to review the budget for the 2014 year. The budget needs to be balanced by March 31 when it is to be turned in to the county auditor.
As of right now, the village is currently trying to curb a projected deficit in excess of $100,000, a number which is based on a report of last year's expenses.
The problem lies with the general fund, as the rest of the budget has already been balanced. Nevertheless, the deficit is large enough to make the pay raises requested during Thursday night's council meeting currently quite impossible. The enterprise fund is balanced, though there still exists the issue of extra funding for the roadways.
"The only problem we have right now in the enterprise fund is paving the roads," Village Administrator Dan Marling stated.
He explained that as the budget sits right now, the crews' main priorities will be repairing and maintaining the waterlines, and whatever funding is leftover after that will go towards patching the roads. However, as the budget currently sits, it does not appear as if there will be ample extra funding the repave many stretches of roads in the village, only enough to patch the areas which are in the worst conditions.
"In reviewing this budget, we obviously have no extra money to spend," said Councilman Josh Meyer. "We have to look at taking different measures to reduce costs and get this budget to where it needs to be."
In addressing what cuts can be made and what measures can be taken, the committee discussed the possibilities of instituting expense caps and removing the parking meters in the village.
Meyer explained that the village stands to lose a minimum of $2,200 this year in regards to the parking meters, without factoring in the wage's of the parking meter employees. He also stated that he has discussed this issue with Mayor Vincent DiFabrizio on several occasions and that the mayor supports the removal of the parking meters.
Opposing the removal of the parking meters were Councilman Jim Williams and Police Chief Mike Kovalyk. The opposing argument was that the village will actually lose more money by removing them, especially in regards to citizens paying for parking in the village parking lot. It would also hurt local businesses by enabling people to park wherever they want for hours at a time.
This issue, in addition to the possible expense caps, will most likely be addressed at the next council meeting. And although a parking meter reformation would not completely solve the deficit, it might help.
Solving a deficit in a small village without extensive sources of revenue is no easy task, especially when said deficit is in excess of $100,000. In fact, many citizens of the village may not quite grasp just how daunting of a job it is.
According to committee members, the public perception is that officials have stowed away a so-called "rainy day fund" that could be used to balance the budget and provide the raises that have been requested, perhaps even leaving some funds left over. However, this is simply not true.
"What some don't realize is that (the "rainy day fund") is factored into the budget already," said Treasurer Tom Sable. In other words, the village still has a deficit even if one accounts for the "extra" money.
Meyer explained that he understands the importance of raises for employees of the enterprise fund, but it is not possible right now fiscally. An across-the-board raise for these employees would cost the village a minimum of over $100,000, which would practically double the deficit as it is currently projected.
"This has to be a village-wide mandate. This isn't just for one area or a pick-and-choose," Meyer said. "We have to all make concessions now. We have to sacrifice a little for the time being until we get this budget balanced.
"We have to analyze every area of the budget where there might be inefficiencies," Meyer said. "We need to find out where we can save every penny - whatever we need to do to right this ship. And I'm hoping we can get a lot of this corrected this year. I want us to be proactive and not reactive to this stuff," he explained.
"We know where we stand, and the house has to be put in order. That's the bottom line," Meyer said.
A special village council meeting will be held Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to approve the appropriations of the 2014 budget.
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