By Christine Bryant
Reynoldsburg City Council took the next step at its most recent finance committee meeting to pass the city’s more than $35 million budget.
City leaders went before council on Feb. 16 to answer questions and explain their departments’ budgets for 2016. Though the city’s budget is still a working document – some items may be added or deleted over the next few weeks – finance committee members voted to send the budget to council for its second of three readings Feb. 22.
Of the proposed city budget, the largest pot of funds fall under the general fund – approximately $17 million. Items that fall under this fund include services like water, wastewater, refuse collection and income tax.
One of the largest department budgets – the division of police – includes a proposed purchase of three new cruisers for the increase in police officers and sergeants on duty, especially during first shift, Police Chief Jim O’Neill said.
When new vehicles are purchased, typically older models are traded in to help offset the costs. However, under the proposed budget, the current vehicles would not be traded in, but instead updated, he said.
Overtime pay, $260,000, also accounts for a significant portion of the department’s $9.3 million budget. Currently, a collective bargaining agreement requires a certain number of sergeants on duty. When one is not available due to illness, vacation or other reasons, another sergeant may have to fill in. The same goes for ensuring staffing remains at optimal levels each shift, 365 days a year.
“It’s something we struggle with every year,” O’Neill said. “We are attempting to take some steps to reduce (overtime hours).”
The parks and recreation department and the service department have the next largest proposed budgets at approximately $1.25 million and $1.18 million respectively.
Donna Bauman, director of the parks and recreation department, said this year’s proposed budget includes an increase in building repair and maintenance funding over last year’s budget, with proposed funds set aside to paint the Livingston House and demolish the old Vlaar house on Waggoner Road along the border of Pine Quarry Park.
She said the department would like to feature seven movie nights this year for families, as well as offer free concerts at a city park.
Nathan Burd, director of the service department, pointed out that in this year’s proposed budget, street lighting is once again expected to be the most costly service at an anticipated $270,000. Electricity costs can be difficult to predict, but Burd said he anticipates the need for increased funding, as well as for mosquito spray.
City staff will continue to revise the budget as needs are further discussed over the next few weeks, with an anticipated final approval by the beginning of next month.