Tallmadge City Council considers $25 million budget which includes 2 percent wage increases for city employees

Includes 2-percent wage increases for city employees; no layoffs, program cuts

by Holly Schoenstein | reporter Published:

Tallmadge -- City Council is reviewing a $25 million budget for 2013 that includes a 2 percent salary increase for all city employees.

Council has scheduled a public hearing at 7 p.m. on Dec. 13 at City Hall on the permanent operating budget. Council is expected to vote on the proposed budget after the public hearing.

"We really worked very hard in producing this budget and presenting it to Council ... It's a very good budget for the city and the residents of Tallmadge," Mayor Dave Kline said.

The general fund of the proposed budget is about $17 million with the carryover from 2012. At the end of 2013, the projected general fund balance is about $4.3 million.

"We are in a good situation. In fact, we have the largest [ending] general fund balance in our history. We usually are at $1.8 million to $1.9 million to $2 million," Director of Administration Tom Pascarella said during a Council budget work session last month.

The overall operating budget for 2012 is nearly $30 million, with about $13 million in the general fund.

Pascarella said several things are factoring into the city's healthy general fund balance, including the savings from city employees who participated in an early retirement program a few years ago. He said some of those vacated positions weren't filled, and some employees who participated were rehired as part-time workers at lower salaries with no benefits.

The city also hired the Regional Income Tax Authority to handle taxes, which contributed to some cost savings, he said.

The proposed 2013 budget includes about $1 million for roads and other improvement projects, including $160,000 for engineering for North Avenue, $300,000 for Ohio Department of Transportation paving projects and $40,000 to refurbish the tennis courts at Lions Park.

This year, the city is spending about $1.5 million on roads, which Kline said was the most in the city's history.

The proposed 2013 budget also includes 2 percent wage increases for all city employees and the hiring of one employee, a part-time assistant for Information Technology Administrator Lloyd Alger. The position will pay $23,000 in salary but won't include benefits.

It doesn't include any layoffs of city personnel.

Pascarella said the sewer fund is a "big problem" in the 2013 budget that may require "sizeable [rate] increases" for households whose sewers are treated by the city of Akron, about one-third of households in Tallmadge. About two-thirds of households have sewers treated by the Summit County Department of Environmental Services.

"This is the biggest challenge in the budget," Pascarella said.

City officials said legislation to address sewer rates will be introduced soon, as they'd like the revised rates to be effective Jan. 1, 2013.

Another challenge in the budget is reductions in some revenue streams, such as the Local Government Fund and Inheritance Tax. Pascarella said in 2009, the city had $929,000 in the fund, and for 2013 he's anticipating $407,000.

Pascarella said because the Inheritance Tax will be eliminated as of Jan. 1, 2013, the revenue the city expects to get from estates that have yet to be settled is projected at $75,000. In 2009, the city received $589,000 of estate tax revenue, he said.

"So you can see these two items, both of which are controlled by the state and not by us, the two of them together comprise about close to a $1 million reduction in revenue, and those are going to be permanent reductions," he added.

Councilmembers commented about various parts of the proposed budget: Jack Sarver said the city should consider spending more money on the police department so it can hire additional patrol officers, and Kim Ray suggested hiring a management company to run Maca Aquatic Center and outsource the information technology department that consists only of one employee, Alger, who at full-time made about $60,000 in salary this year. The city is paying about $20,000 for his benefits.

In the past, the city paid the YWCA about $100,000 per season to run the pool before it was rebuilt, according to Kline. He said the city lost money the years under this agreement.

Projects the city administration is putting on a temporary hold include the rewrite of the zoning code. This spring, depending on finances, the city will decide whether to pursue the projects or delay them further, Pascarella said.

Email: hschoenstein@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9428

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