Bexley Coucil cuts but cant erase 2008 budget deficit

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 Messenger photo by John Matuszak

Bexley Mayor David Madison, left, receives a proclamation from Capital University President Denvy Bowman recognizing his 32 years of service to the community at the Dec. 18 City Council meeting. The proclamation declared Dec. 19 David Madison Day on campus, and the university will inscribe a paver stone on its Mound Street plaza in honor of his support of the university. Mark Cooper, Capital’s vice president for public relations, presented a slightly tongue-in-cheek resolution noting that when the university’s 2008 graduates were born, Madison had already been mayor for 14 years. Cooper also presented Madison with cafeteria meal vouchers. Madison also received a proclamation from the Ohio House of Representatives presented by Rep. Jim McGregor, who said Madison a mentor when he was mayor of Gahanna.

Bexley City Council has been able to  cut in half its 2008 budget deficit, but still expects to spend $1.3 million more than it takes in next year.

"We did well in addressing the budget deficit. Maybe not as well as some of us would have liked," City Councilman and finance committee chairman Matt Lampke said Dec. 18.

The initial budget deficit projection had been $2.6 million.

The final spending gap is $250,000 less than this year’s, Lampke noted, even with negotiated employee pay raises.

The city should have a fund balance of $2 million at the end of 2008.

Councilman Jeff McClelland pointed that this does not include the $1 million "rainy day" fund.

But the picture isn’t all that sunny, countered Council President Mark Masser, with the city facing such big-ticket items as construction of a new police station and repairs to Jeffrey Mansion, as well as debt payments for the pool.

Lampke said he wants to look at the health coverage offered to employees to find a way to cut those costs.

They did agree to fund $94,857 for leases on three new police cruisers and payments on leases for existing vehicles.

Capital requests for the recreation, service, building and technology departments will be revisited in January.

Auditor Larry Heiser has recommended setting aside the portion of estate tax collections above the budgeted amount to fund capital expenditures.

In past years, that figure would have gone as high as $2.8 million, although estate taxes have been down the last two years.

In the past the city has earmarked a percentage of income taxes for capital projects, but that amount has been reduced.

Heiser believes that not relying on estate taxes to fill budget gaps will make council more fiscally disciplined.

Council has been able to cut the 2008 deficit figure with budget reductions in most departments, and by holding off on approving about $900,000 in expenditures for equipment and vehicles in its capital improvements budget.

Council had considered eliminating $5,000 for police training, but Chief Larry Rinehart strongly objected and the item remained in the budget.

A request for  $545,000 transfer from the general fund to the recreation fund has been reduced to $425,000.

Council had asked Parks and Recreation Director Doug Jackson to amend his budget request to keep the transfer amount at $405,000, the same as 2006. But Jackson reported that he had been unable to make that drastic a cut.

He expects to operate within his truncated budget by increasing program fees and cutting some offerings.

Mayor-elect John Brennan has recommended hiring Louis Chodosh as city attorney to replace James Gross.

The contract would include a $48,000 a year retainer, and a $100 an hour fee for additional services.

Chodosh has experience as a labor negotiator, which could save the city in consultant fees, Brennan said, and he would also act as the city’s prosecuting attorney.

In a gesture toward fiscal responsibility, council members eliminated their $500 line item for refreshments.

In other business:

•Brian Kiggins, a architect from Schooley Caldwell, reported that repairs to the exterior of Jeffrey Mansion, including bricks, roofs, windows and doors, are on schedule and on budget. The city had budgeted $1.3 million for the project, and Kiggins expects to have about $152,000 left when it is completed.

•Interim Service Director Bill Harvey announced that he will be forming a committee to study the safety of the city’s sidewalks and bicycle and handicap ramps. The move was prompted by concerns raised by resident Dolores Straight, who uses a wheelchair.

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