After months of discussion and revised financial forecasts, Bexley Mayor John Brennan has announced a package of cost reductions and revenue-generating ideas designed to balance the city budget through 2016.

After months of discussion and revised financial forecasts, Bexley Mayor John Brennan has announced a package of cost reductions and revenue-generating ideas designed to balance the city budget through 2016.

Brennan formally presented his budget plan during city council’s Sept. 27 meeting.

Both the service department and Parks and Recreation take hits in Brennan’s proposal. The Bexley Police budget escaped cuts for the time being.

“In order to achieve our goal of a balanced budget over the next five-year period, the city of Bexley has identified at least $930,000 in additional expense reductions,” Brennan said. “These targeted expense reductions have begun, and the complete package of reductions will be phased in via the 2012 budget.”

The plan calls for the elimination of three full-time positions in the service department ($200,000 savings).

“We have identified additional full-time positions that will not be filled or will be restructured following employee departures in 2011 and 2012,” Brennan said. “Together, the savings from these positions total almost $500,000 in savings from the general fund budget.”

The city will also reduce a transfer from the general fund budget to the recreation fund budget by $60,000 per year.

“Parks and recreation will offset this loss in the form of expense reductions and a focus on more self-sufficient programming opportunities,” Brennan said.

Additional cuts will be made to multiple departmental budgets, including a restructuring of the city’s landscaping contract ($50,000 savings) and the elimination of several programs and grants, including the Main Street and North Cassady façade grant program ($20,000 savings).

The city will also review fees on building permits and other miscellaneous fees in order to raise an additional $25,000 in annual income.

Brennan said the remainder of the savings will be made in the form of “employee benefit and compensation reductions.”

He said while the city cannot accurately predict the exact outcome of negotiations with employee bargaining units, “every effort will be made to preserve adequate, market-level benefits for employees, and to continue to provide a level of compensation that makes Bexley a desirable working environment for quality employees.”

The additional cuts to staff and employee benefits are expected to save approximately $604,000.

“It is important to note that this is a starting point for dialogue with city council,” Brennan said. “While most of these items have been discussed with council, further discussion is necessary, and this proposal will be subject to the approval and cooperation of council, as well as successful negotiation of upcoming contracts.”

Brennan said he thinks the cuts can be implemented without seriously affecting the quality of city services.

“It is our belief that we can institute these budget changes while maintaining a robust level of quality city services for our residents,” he said. “While none of the changes we are going through are easy, extraordinary changes to state funding and state policy, coupled with difficult economic times, demand that we do no less.”

Bexley is projected to lose approximately 25 percent of its general fund revenue as a result of the passage of the state’s 2011-12 budget. The city will lose 50 percent of its Local Government Fund revenues and all of the revenues from the Ohio estate tax, which has been eliminated.

In an effort to make up for those losses, the city is has placed Issue 24 on the Nov. 8 ballot, an issue to increase the income tax rate from 2 percent to 2.5 percent.

Revised projections prepared by city auditor Gary Qualmann following the elimination of the estate tax indicate that, in addition to new revenue from Issue 24, annual expense reductions of at least $930,000 needed to be instituted starting in 2012 in order to balance the city budget over the next 5-year period, through 2016.

Brennan and Bexley City Council have reduced expenditures in key areas over the past four years. Those efforts included:

• Several director positions have been eliminated.

• Director salaries have been reduced in many instances.

• Staff has been reduced in the Service and Parks and Recreation departments.

• Consulting fees have been reduced.

• The city’s health insurance plan has been restructured.

Brennan said those measures saved an estimated $800,000 per year and approximately $2 million in grant funds helped the city’s financial situation.

“However, these savings have been offset by substantial increases in the fire contract with the city of Columbus, by ongoing employment contracts, and by an increase in debt service due to the construction of the city pool and police station,” Brennan said.