The City of Bexley is not alone in dealing with today’s economic crisis, and during its City Council meeting Nov. 18, most of the discussion centered on its 2009 budget.
Mayor John Brennan discussed a 2 percent salary increase across the board for all Bexley City workers and said he hopes to negotiate the increase to 3 percent.
"Originally we were looking at a 4 percent increase but with the shape of the economy we thought it would be better to start at 2 percent and hopefully negotiate to 3 percent."
He added that "by decreasing the salary increase by at least 1 percent we hope it will enable us to hold on to two or three city positions."
The mayor said the city will cut back to some degree in all areas of the budget. The city already has broken its contract with the City of Columbus with winter snow plowing. Columbus increased its quote of $5,000 for plowing last year to $15,000 for 2009.
"Its just not worth it," Brennan said. "It was an amicable split."
Also during the meeting, City Attorney Lou Chodosh agreed to limit his retainer to a 2-percent increase and said the attorney’s office has cut back in many areas.
He said the city’s first line of defense has been its insurance coverage.
"Having the coverage that we do has saved the city a significant amount of money especially where litigation cases are concerned," he said. "We are fortunate to have lawyers who reside in Bexley who have reduced their hourly rates and kept their fees reasonable."
He suggested one goal for increasing 2009 revenues would be to increase fines for Mayor’s Court, but added that this subject should be discussed further in executive session.
The need for a Charter School review also came up during budget discussions.
Council Member Jeff McClelland said according to state law a review must be conducted every 10 years and the city has allocated $10,000 dollars for the review.
Council Chair Rick Weber said, "I just don’t see how we are going to spend $10,000 on a review. Ten years ago an extensive review was conducted, and there is no doubt it should be done now, but I have a hard time believing that they will come-up with significant changes."
There is no need to reinvent the wheel, Brennan said.
Weber recommended giving the new commissioner access to the meeting minutes during the last review that was conducted to give them the information and background.
The city also is considering cutting back on grants.
"We need to think about a token amount of support to some of these programs because some of them provide important human services," McClelland said.
Council Member Jed Morison added, "I am surprised at how many residents there are who use these services."
Council Member Ben Kessler said, "Everyone is feeling the affects of the economy, the food banks are struggling and are inundated with people who need assistance."
"It is not appropriate to cut-back on the Meals on Wheels program because a substantial portion of senior citizens rely on this service," Kessler said.
The Council unanimously approved the purchase and installation of new lighting at Drexel Circle. Auditor Larry Heiser said "no city money was used for this project and added that no city employees will be responsible for the maintenance of the lights."
"This is a beautiful area of the city and we are thankful for the people who have raised the funds as well as the Columbus Foundation who helped raise some of the funds for this project," Weber said.
Separately, a chart was passed out during the meeting to provide residents an opportunity to see where there tax dollars go. Heiser said the majority of their taxes goes to the schools.
"People don’t realize how much money goes to the schools, and that is why a lot of people move to Bexley, because of our schools," Heiser said.