NORTH ROYALTON – Three months ahead of schedule, city council has OK’d what it calls a solid, conservative 2017 budget.
Council has until March 31 to pass the budget but has made it a mission to have the new budget in place before the new year the past five years. The budget passed unanimously at the Dec. 20 meeting.
Ward 4 Councilman Paul Marnecheck, a member of council’s finance committee, said budgeting ahead provides certainty and predictability for individual departments.
“We did this budget the same way I think many people do their home budgets. We allocated money we knew we would have, and if revenue goes up unexpectedly, we know what we will put it toward,” he said. “In passing a budget this early, it gives the departments certainty and predictability where they can already begin preparing for 2017 and having the budget ahead of time lets us take advantage of opportunities.”
Conservative is a key word many officials use to describe the budget process yearly and 2017 was no different.
“We budget conservatively and don’t put a lot of frill into it. We monitor it on a monthly basis and have the ability to react to anything that may come up,” Council President Larry Antoskiewicz, finance’s chair, said. “Ultimately, we are spending on all the necessary things we need to do but have given ourselves a cushion where we have flexibility if an emergency comes up or something else.”
Mayor Bob Stefanik referred to it as conservative too and said the city consistently errs on the side of caution when it comes to planning.
“Once again we presented city council with a very conservative budget, ensuring that we are not overestimating revenues we will be seeing in 2017. We always look at a worst case scenario when it comes to our budgeting to caution on the side of being very conservative,” he said.
The 2016 gross income tax collection was $15.36 million, ending the year up $457,000 in gross collections over 2015, money that will likely be put back into roads next year. But Finance Director Eric Dean is projecting collections slightly less next year at $15 million.
Significant budget items are equipment purchases primarily for wastewater funded through the sanitary sewer fees residents pay to the city and are part of the five-year capital improvement plan to address this department’s needs.
Wastewater equipment includes a vac truck for $450,000; a front-end loader for $154,000; three Ford F-250s, which will also be utilized by the stormwater crew, for $340,000; and a belt press for $654,000.
The police department will also be receiving three Interceptor SUVs and an Expedition, totaling $175,000, to update its aging fleet.
Approximately $225,000 has been earmarked so far for the 2017 Roads Program and $100,000 for street striping, and there is $267,500 set aside for municipal building repair.
Ward 6 Councilman Dan Kasaris said at a time when some cities are overspending and finding themselves in financial distress, North Royalton is different.
“We budget conservatively, and we continue to do that with the 2017 budget,” he said. “We are focused on road repair, stormwater and our safety forces and continuing to provide the services we provide while maintaining a healthy rainy day fund.”
Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw said the challenges the city faces in providing services to residents in the aftermath of state funding cuts and the city’s recent EMS levy failure stood out to him during this year’s budget process.
“Next year will mark over $5 million in total state funding cuts to our city with no outlook of anything changing in Columbus ... also, when looking at the budget, $2.9 million from the general fund is going to support the fire department, which is 19 percent of general fund expenses and continues to rise. The recent EMS levy failing does not help things as EMS runs continue to increase each year and is a vital emergency service we must maintain.”
He said regardless, he has faith in council and the administration.
“I am confident by the continued hard work of council and the administration, we will overcome them,” Langshaw said, “but it does make the budget process harder, and this was a little harder budget than years past.”