Council passes 2017 budget with little fanfare, debate

By Michael Fitzpatrick

North Ridgeville

City Council passed its budget for 2017 and didn’t appear to have as troublesome a time as in years past.

In total, the city will spend $90 million to run the city and the French Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. In years past, the finance committee met for hours to hammer out agreements to produce a balanced budget, often debating among themselves and the administration about which projects should be funded or not. But this year there was little debate.

In total, the city is slated to spend $90.7 million in 2017, compared to $84 million in 2016, with most of that increase due to the cost of the new fire station. For the first year in many, the city will also anticipate its revenues ($15.6 million) to be more than its expenditures ($13.58 million), which is always favorable.

Capital improvements continue throughout the city with the city having to pay for some or all of the costs associated with projects like the widening of both Lear Nagle and the future widening of Center Ridge roads and the extension of Jaycox Road.

The city will also leverage local, state and federal money to join with the city of Avon to pay for the new roundabout at the intersection of Mills and SR 83, which is slated to begin this summer, and to construct the new main fire station, which will be built along the Jaycox extension, also expected to begin this year.

“We have about six different road projects underway, and those are financed in a number of different ways,” Mayor Dave Gillock said.

“Our current financial picture is fine,” longtime Councilwoman Bernadine Butkowski said. “We have a balanced budget and are able to purchase most of what is needed for next year. The department heads spend the money wisely and work well with the administration to keep the city running in an economical way.”

According to Gillock, the city will not outspend its revenues, which had not been the case over the past several years as the city spent more than it took in and ate into its reserves.

“We were eating into our carryover,” Gillock said.

The police department will be getting five new SUVs in the 2017 budget and will also be getting a new administrative employee who will help with record keeping.

The fire department will not be getting the three new firefighters requested by fire Chief John Reese, but will be getting a new ambulance at a cost of $220,000.

“We just don’t have the funds right now” to hire the three additional firefighters, Gillock said.

Council President Kevin Corcoran said the 2017 budget will allow the city continue to work on making infrastructure improvements. The city continues to make the best use of its money to leverage other government funds to help get projects funded, Corcoran said.

“There is never enough money to meet all the needs, but we continue to achieve the best we can with the funds that we have,” Corcoran said. “I wish everyone could sit through the budget process and see where our money comes from and where it is spent because the challenges we face would answer many questions.”

Speaking of the budget process, it went smoothly under new auditor Jeff Wilcheck, according to Mayor Dave Gillock. That was in part because prior to the hearings Gillock, Wilcheck and the department heads sat down to discuss what “was possible and what wasn’t” Gillock said. In years past, Gillock said, the auditor did not sit in on such meetings.

“The auditor also set a 30-percent carryover goal in advance so that when we got to finance committee we knew where we were at,” Gillock said. “We are doing it a different way this year.”

Traditionally under Gillock’s leadership, the city has only spent about 70 percent of the money allocated.
Roseanne Johnson, chair of the finance committee, said she’s excited about the roundabout and said the budget hearings indicated to her the city is in good financial shape for the next year.

She said she would have liked to see the fire department hire the three firefighters because it would have allowed for full staffing, which will be needed more and more as the city continues to grow.

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