Bexley News

City notes

Budget process yields stability for city finances

By BEN KESSLER
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I'd like to take a moment to thank Bexley City Council members, Auditor Gary Qualmann and our city staff for their great help and support through the 2014 budget process.

While a piece of the budget conversation this year was occupied by broader philosophical questions about how to equitably administer the compensation program for our hard working city staff, I believe a much more impactful aspect of this year's budgetary process needs to be celebrated and highlighted.

The year 2014 marks the second consecutive year that we have proposed, and City Council has passed, a balanced budget.

Just two or three years ago this seemed like an impossible task: the state of Ohio had eliminated the estate tax and cut the local government fund in half, resulting in a devastating loss of around 25 percent of Bexley's annual income. With the help of voters in supporting an income tax increase to 2.5 percent, and with the hard work of the administration in cutting more than $1,000,000 annually (about 10 percent) from the city's expenses, the city is on a sustainable track.

I wanted to briefly highlight a few key points about Bexley's budgetary landscape:

* This year we are due to spend around $300,000 to $400,000 less than what was budgeted for in 2013, resulting in a net gain to the city's general fund balance. This gain will enable the city to set aside needed capital reserves.

* Our 2013 expenditures will end up below 2011 and 2012 expenditures.

* Our 2014 expenditures are budgeted to increase at a slightly lower rate than the increase in income to the city. The majority of this increase is attributed to standard inflationary pressure on payroll and materials costs, hyper-inflationary increases in health insurance costs, and a stronger investment in capital. Our goal is to continue to rein in any increases to a nominal and sustainable level, in order to continue to have a stable financial footing and in order to avoid the need for additional funding.

* In the past two years, we have brought in an estimated additional $3 million to $3.5 million in committed payroll from more than 100 new jobs. This translates into a net gain of more than $75,000 annually in income to the city. This emphasis on new payroll and new development helps fortify the city's sustainable budgetary track.

This year's budget process was made relatively smooth because of the hard work and hard decisions made over the past several years by you, the voters, by elected officials, and by our steadfast city employees, as new funding was approved and as expenses were cut.

While our city budget is by no means flush, the stability offered by these changes as well as the continual emphasis on careful stewardship of our finances should be celebrated.

Many thanks to Bexley City Council members and to you, the residents, for your support and hard work.

Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler provided this City Notes column to ThisWeek Bexley News.

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