By MAX FILBY
Findlay is preparing to map out a budget for the next two years instead of just one.
City officials announced Tuesday they will start preparing the budget, which will go through 2016, at a Sept. 9 meeting of council’s Appropriations Committee.
It’s the first time a city budget will be created for more than one year.
Although the state only allows a single-year budget to be adopted by the city, the second year will be mapped out to allow for more consideration of city priorities, officials have said.
Auditor Jim Staschiak has been advocating a two-year budget to provide a rough outline of the city’s financial goals and priorities. Last month, Mayor Lydia Mihalik said her administration would adopt the concept.
The mayor and auditor have disagreed on whether a budget should look even farther ahead, and how priorities should be set. Last month, Mihalik said expense priorities should be based on projected revenues, while Staschiak said necessary services should be determined before identifying how much they’ll cost.
“Being able to properly project revenues more than one year at a time is just as important as expenses,” Mihalik said in July.
On Tuesday, council members debated splitting the city’s long annual budget hearing, set for Dec. 11, in order to better review and address budget concerns from different departments. Although no action was taken to split the session, 1st Ward Councilwoman Holly Frische suggested the city set up a follow-up meeting for any concerns that may arise after the budget hearing.
“I’d consider adding a follow-up,” Frische said. “Going through it for the first time last year, I would have had some more questions later on to ask.”
Fifth Ward Councilman John Harrington agreed that an additional meeting or a splitting of the budget hearing would be a way to ease the difficulty that comes with the long meeting.
Separately, the auditor’s office announced a $1 million savings because of an 8 percent decrease in health plan costs.
The city is projected to spend about $3,500 less per employee on health coverage in 2014 than it did in 2011, the auditor told council in a letter.
The decrease will allow the city to suspend insurance premium collections for employees for the next two to three months.
Separately, City Council unanimously agreed to designate $35,741 in grant money from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for a project along Lye Creek. The project, which will involve planting trees and plants on the west side of Lye Creek to create a “riparian corridor,” was approved by council on April 1.
Although the motion to appropriate the EPA grant money passed without opposition Tuesday, two council members voted against the April ordinance.
The project caused some controversy earlier this year when residents such as Susan Thompson, organizer of a conservative political group, the Findlay 912 project, spoke out at a January council meeting. Thompson opposed use of grant money for the project, saying it could result in future restrictions and implications for the land.
“Grant money will be the downfall of this nation,” she said in January.
Separately Tuesday, council approved a committee report that recommended the installation of a light in the Saratoga Drive area “at or near the Rush Creek Bridge,” according to the report. Council members said they plan to look at what type of lighting should be installed and whether decorative lighting for the bridge would be appropriate.