By JOY BROWN
With Findlay’s general fund balance expected to be more than $9 million at year’s end, city officials seem to have come to a consensus on the need for long-term fiscal planning.
For three years, Auditor Jim Staschiak has advocated at least a two-year budget plan that would set priorities for the following year and provide a rough outline of priorities two years out.
On Monday, Mayor Lydia Mihalik said the administration plans to promote just that as her office and City Council work through the 2015 budget this fall.
But disagreements continue between the mayor and auditor regarding the interplay of expenses and revenues, particularly when it comes to estimating.
At 5 p.m. today, Findlay’s mid-year budget review, offered by the auditor, will provide information to council and administrators on how this year is shaping up, compared with what was budgeted in January.
Council will also hear another appeal for long-term planning, Staschiak said.
The city, he thinks, should first determine the right level of services and figure out how much those services will cost.
But that money-management stance has clashed with the administration’s, which continues to contend just the opposite.
Expense priorities should be based on clear revenue trends, according to Milhalik. That’s how household budgets are organized, she said: people pay for what they can afford.
“Being able to properly project revenues more than one year at a time is just as important as expenses,” Mihalik said.
During the past few years, Mihalik said, the city’s revenue streams have varied widely. She pointed to the city’s year-end general fund balance in 2012, which was projected to be $500,000 but instead ended up at $1.2 million, in part thanks to unexpectedly higher tax amounts.
Mihalik looks for 2015 to be a benchmark year, however. The economy is more stable, and income from the city’s former quarter-percent income tax will finally be absent from the books.
Having a healthy end-year balance in the general fund, Mihalik said, means the city has already been planning and rebounding from the recession, and will have enough money to weather another storm without asking taxpayers for more money.
For 2015, estimated general fund revenue, recently approved by City Council, is $26.8 million.
At this time last year, the estimate of general fund revenue for 2014 was $22.6 million. The revenue figure for this year is now estimated at $26.7 million.
The city next year intends to increase the amount of city income tax revenue that goes to capital improvements from 17 percent to 18 percent.