By JOY BROWN
Findlay City Council on Thursday approved a $64.3 million overall budget for 2014 that makes possible key staffing increases, a jump in capital improvement funding, and a higher reserve amount.
The total reflects a $3 million increase from the amount appropriated in 2013.
For the city’s general fund, $25.3 million was approved, or nearly half a million more than was allocated a year ago.
Helping to stabilize finances were 2013 income tax collections, which increased $2.9 million above 2012 levels.
Benefiting from the stability this year will be the Fire Department. Officials have said they intend to recall three of the 10 firefighters who were laid off last spring, which will increase shift size to 15 from 14 and put a ladder truck back in commission.
The Police Department plans to add a dispatcher and hire two more officers this year, allowing for a Special Assignment Unit to be revived.
The Parks Department and computer services will also see additions, and administrators hope to hire a full-time engineer and human resources director.
A communication liaison, suggested by Mayor Lydia Mihalik, will not be hired. Mihalik said there wasn’t enough support from council.
Capital improvements will receive a 1 percent hike in its city income tax allocation for the year, to 17 percent. A capital spending plan is expected to be introduced at a Jan. 16 meeting of council’s Appropriations Committee.
Also, the minimum reserve policy was changed to allow for enough money to be set aside for two months of operations, should hard financial times befall the city again. The reserve will increase from less than $4 million to more than $5 million.
The new City Council, which includes five newcomers and an extra ward representative this year, passed other pieces of legislation Thursday, all of it fast-tracked.
A recent Courier story reported that more than half of the legislation approved by council in 2013 was hurried.
Councilman-At-Large Grant Russel and 5th Ward Councilman John Harrington asked Thursday why language in some ordinances suggests the bills be passed as emergency measures.
Administrators said passing legislation as emergency measures primarily means the legislation goes into effect at the time the mayor signs it, rather than 30 days later.
Legislation can also be speeded up if council suspends its rules and forgoes giving three readings to legislation at separate council meetings.
Safety-Service Director Paul Schmelzer said legislation can be passed by emergency but still have three readings.
Bob Nichols, 7th Ward councilman, said legislation that includes a variety of measures can be separated into different ordinances and resolutions, too.
Administrators said many of the appropriation ordinances needed to be passed Thursday so the city could have money to operate.
“Some of this is just routine business of running the city,” Nichols said.
“Most of the legislation we’ve passed by emergency, I’d say 90 percent or more, has been operational-type issues,” said 2nd Ward Councilman Randy Van Dyne. “I’ve generally relied on you folks and your good judgment and not tried to second-guess you” when emergency language has been included in legislation, he told the administration.
Schmelzer said some confusion may be cleared up if someone summarizes why each piece of legislation is being considered for emergency passage.
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