There was a lively discussion of the 2009 budget by the Bexley City Council at its Dec. 16 meeting before it was narrowly approved with a one-vote majority.
Although the budget narrowly balanced, some of the council members felt that there were still extras that could be trimmed to give the city more of a cushion.
Council Members Ben Kessler and Mark Masser felt that the approximately $29,000 of cushion wasn’t enough and said they would be more comfortable with $500,000 to $700,000, especially because the city has about a $2-million operating deficit for 2009.
Simply put, that means that revenues are not matching expenditures. Although the budget balances, it does so by using up much of the funds the city already had before counting in the 2009 revenue.
I know that we have agonized over this budget process and dug deep into it, and we have made some good progress, Kessler said. But I don’t think we are there yet. I think that there are further things that can be done to save more money.
Masser said Brennan and the support staff working on the problem have made some moves that really show sincere effort to try to correct the problem that we were heading into.
However, he said, the trend of spending more than incoming revenue would eventually catch up to the city.
I look at some of these numbers as not being realistic when it comes to budgeting, Masser said. So although we show a positive $29,000, I’m not comfortable with that.
Council Member Jed Morison supported the approval of the budget, along with a slim majority of the other members.
I think it’s our best guesstimate of what we thinks going to happen, he said, while agreeing with all the efforts to trim where possible. But we need to be conscious of maintaining quality of service in our community. We have some tough decisions to make, but I think this budget is certainly a good effort.
I don’t think any of us are jumping up and down about $29,000 (in cushion), council member Rick Weber said.
Brennan said the discussion of cutting the budget down further was unnecessary. Comparing this budget with previous ones, he said, You can’t pull rabbits out of the hat. There isn’t any other money out there, unless you want to go drastic.
The city could stop picking up leaves and spreading salt on the roads, he said, but with negative effects.
What are you willing to do? We want quality of life yet we want to stop all of this stuff, he said.
The mayor also reminded the council that it has money in its rainy day fund.
Morison said the current economic conditions seem to constitute a rainy day situation.
I think we have to feel really good about the fact that we do have that rainy day fund, he said, adding, We’d rather not get into it if we don’t have to.
In the long run, part of the solution for the city may come down to higher taxes. Council Member Jeff McClelland said the city can continue to work with the budget and make some additional cuts.
But, he said, I think realistically, to maintain the quality of life in this city that our citizens have become accustomed to … we’re going to have to raise taxes sometime.