Communities tighten up 2013 budgets

by Jeff Saunders | Reporter Published:

Nordonia Hills -- Although three of the area's four communities have not yet established permanent budgets for 2013, they all began the year with a cash cushion in their coffers.

Macedonia, Northfield Center and Northfield Village are currently operating under temporary budgets, while Sagamore Hills Trustees approved the township's permanent budget Dec. 27. Under state law, the communities must approve permanent budgets by the end of March.

Macedonia

Macedonia Finance Director Scott Svab said the city started the year with about $5.77 million, of which nearly $3.36 million was in the general fund. The general fund carryover includes $500,000 each in the emergency reserve fund and the retirement reserve fund -- a fund set up last year to pay for difficult-to-anticipate expenses when an employee retires and is compensated for unused vacation or sick time.

By comparison, said Svab, the city began 2012 with about $5.94 million, about $3.19 million of which was in the general fund -- including the $500,000 emergency reserve fund.

Svab said the city's proposed budget this year is about $17.84 million, of which $10.9 million is the general fund, lower than the approximately $11.4 million spent out of the general fund last year.

Total income tax revenue, the city's largest source of revenue, last year totaled about $7.82 million. Svab said he is projecting a 3 percent growth, about $240,000 in income tax revenue this year.

"I see modest growth," he said. "I think the economy's up a little bit."

However, Svab said there are some concerns. For one thing, this is the last year the city will collect additional revenue from a three-year income tax increase that voters approved in November 2010. It increased the city's rates from 2 to 2.25 percent and Svab said it provided roughly $750,000 last year.

In addition, although it is not a tax increase, there is no guarantee that voters will approve the renewal of a 1-mill, five-year fire levy planned for the May 7 ballot. Svab said that if it is not renewed this year, the city will lose nearly $400,000 that goes to the fire department.

Mayor Don Kuchta said he believes the city has done a good job in creating a cushion to protect it from blows.

"We're strong," he said. "It's better to be apprehensive about forthcoming changes when you're strong."

Northfield Center

According to financial records from Township Fiscal Officer Andy LaGuardia, the township started 2013 with about $3.75 million after spending about $2 million in 2012. This included about $1.47 million carryover in the general fund, with about $776,000 spent.

"We're holding our own," said Trustee Richard Reville. "We're maintaining our service levels without going for more tax dollars."

By comparison, the township began 2012 with about $3.46 million, including about $1.35 million in the general fund. LaGuardia said he cannot say how much money the township will have available this year because he needs total estimated resources figures from the Summit County Fiscal Office.

"I can't answer that because I'm still waiting for that from the county," said LaGuardia.

LaGuardia said he expects two reductions in revenue this year. First is nearly $100,000 from the loss of estate taxes, which have been phased out by the state. Second, LaGuardia expects the township will only get about half of the $124,000 it receives in local government and state income tax funding due to state budget cuts.

Northfield Village

Northfield Village Finance Director Monica James said the village began 2012 with about $480,000, of which about $155,000 was in the general fund. The village started 2012 with more than $260,000 in the general fund, but less money overall -- about $385,000.

"With revenues being down, we did an exceptional job," said Mayor Jesse Nehez.

About $3.2 million was spent last year, including about $2.1 million from the general fund.

"We're pinching pennies where we can and staying on top of the budget," said Nehez.

Local income tax receipts, the village's "main source" of revenue, totaled a little over $1 million last year, said James. She said she expects to have an estimate for this year around mid-February, which is likely to include a jump thanks to employee withholding taxes from workers constructing a $285 million gaming and entertainment facility, or racino, at Northfield Park.

James said that although a proposed permanent budget has not been prepared, yet, she only foresees one significant change this year.

"About the only added expense will be the village's [$240,000] portion of the sanitary sewer project," said James, referring to plans to expand flow capacity, as well as eliminate the village's Elm Street pump station, at an estimated cost of $1.9 million.

About $1.66 million is to be paid for with a state Issue 1 grant.

The village is also expecting $2 million this year in two installments that the state is distributing to communities with a race track that will host a racino. The money is from the state's casino operator's settlement fund, which hold funds paid into it by casino and racino developers.

"I think things are going very well," said Nehez.

Sagamore Hills

According to township budget figures, the township is expecting to have about $6.16 million at the end of 2013, including nearly $4 million in the general fund. The township started the year with $5.32 million, including about $3.92 million in the general fund.

"The township's doing just fine," said Trustee Richard Barrett, adding that the township does not plan any "pie-in-the-sky" projects this year.

"We still have money in the rainy day fund and we've balanced the budget," he said. "We're in good shape with the carryover."

Total expenditures this year are anticipated to a little less than $3 million, with the largest about $1.47 million out of the police levy fund. Total revenue this year is estimated at more than $3.8 million, of which about $3.2 million will be property taxes, including $1.7 million generated by the township's 5-mill police levy.

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9432

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