By DENISE GRANT
With good management and some good fortune in 2018, Findlay officials say they can overcome a $1.6-million deficit in the proposed general fund budget for 2018.
City Council held its first budget hearings for 2018 on Wednesday, with 12 departments reviewing their spending plans and goals for next year. The hearings lasted nearly four hours.
The city will come close to overcoming a projected deficit of $1.2 million this year. While year’s end is still two weeks away, it looks like the spending deficit will be closer to $600,000 or less.
City departments have returned about $1.7 million in funding that had been appropriated by council for their use, but not spent. Enough, said Mayor Lydia Mihalik, to overcome the projected deficit for this year.
“I think we have done a very good job,” said Mihalik. “… They did what we asked them to do. The biggest problem is that the revenue didn’t come in the way we wanted.”
Income tax collections were down about $1 million in 2017.
General fund operating revenue for 2018 is expected to total $26.8 million. Operational spending for 2018 is expected to total $28.4 million, which includes $1.3 million in subsidies.
The complete 2018 budget book is available to the public online at www.findlayohio.com. Visitors can find it on the auditor’s page, and it will be listed under budget presentations.
All departments are budgeting a 2 percent base pay increase in 2018, matching raises to be given to the city’s unionized employees.
Mihalik told City Council on Wednesday that there’s “a lot going on.”
She says it feels like the city has been on the defense against both the state and federal government, with attempts at both levels to change healthcare and tax laws that negatively affect the city’s operation and income.
“I really don’t think anyone knows what’s in that (federal) tax bill,” Mihalik said.
She said “there’s more in there,” than just what affects the middle class or corporations.
“It’s been one thing right after another,” she said.
However, she also said the city has been “on the offense” with both workforce development and the opioid crisis.
She said economic development efforts in the city are setting records in investment, with Findlay’s industries reporting 1,200 new employees in 2017, also a record.
Some of the highlights from the hearings, included:
- The city’s computer services department plans to begin installing new equipment, including a new phone system, in anticipation of the completion of the city’s fiber optic ring by mid-2018. The department’s proposed budget in the new year is $381,130, an 8.4 percent increase over its projected 2017 spending.
- Findlay’s Neighborhood Enhancement & Abatement Team, or NEAT, reported 1,304 open cases as of October, and 1,024 closed cases for 2017. The department’s proposed budget for 2018 is $106,354, a decrease of .1 percent from year-end projections for 2017.
- City Engineer Brian Thomas reported the city paved 31.98 miles of streets in 2017, nearly triple the number paved in 2016. A citywide pavement condition assessment was completed in 2017, and a similar study is planned for city waterlines next year. The department’s proposed budget for 2018 is $771,261, a 6 percent over projections for this year.
- Police Chief John Dunbar reported that crime continued to drop in Findlay in 2017. Year-to-date, the incidents of violent crime in the city number 469, compared to 563 in 2016 and 659 in 2015. Non-violent crimes, year-to-date for 2017, number 1,689, compared to 1,950 in 2016 and 2,124 in 2015.
“Crime continues to go down, so that’s a plus. Hopefully that will continue in 2018,” Dunbar said.
Department staffing will remain the same in 2018, with 65 police officers, 11 dispatchers and one parking enforcement officer.
The proposed budget for the Findlay Police Department in 2018 is $7.4 million, a 2.3 percent increase over spending projections for this year.
- The Findlay Fire Department has three new firefighters beginning work in January due to retirements. The fire department’s staffing level will increase by one next year, for a total of 64 firefighters. The department reported an average response time of 3:54 minutes in 2017, beating its goal of five minutes. The fire department’s proposed budget for 2018 is $7.67 million, up 6.2 percent over projections for 2017.
City Council has split the hours-long budget hearing process over two days. Hearings will continue at 5 p.m. today in the third-floor conference room at the Findlay Municipal Building, 318 Dorney Plaza. The hearings are open to the public.
Today’s hearings are scheduled for the Findlay Civil Service Department, along with the law director, municipal court, planning and zoning, buildings, the treasurer, auditor and council’s budget.
City Council is also expected to discuss the overall budget and expectations for the new year.