Delaware News

City OKs balanced budget, despite state cuts

Potential record number of new builds should bolster coffers, city officials say

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Delaware city officials approved a balanced budget for 2013 just before the start of the new year.

City Council approved the new city budget following a third reading at its Dec. 27 meeting.

The city projects a revenue total of $16.64 million, topping proposed expenditures by about $1,000. Under the budget, the city's reserve fund will stand at roughly $4.55 million. Overall, projected expenditures are up by about $522,000 from 2012, an increase of 3.2 percent.

The new budget sets aside roughly $3.8 million for capital improvements, including road repaving and a new bike path around the Houk Road park.

Officials credited new construction and an increase in income tax revenue for helping the city to balance the budget, even as state funding dwindles.

Building-permit data continued to trend upward in 2012 and new residential construction permits finished with the strongest showing since 2007, city leaders said. Business and multifamily developments are on pace to set a record in 2013, with about 230 permits granted, said City Manager Tom Homan.

But cuts to state funding and the elimination of Ohio's inheritance tax will offset many of the city's gains next year, with reductions totaling about $380,000 in 2013.

One council member noted the budget doesn't address the level of equipment and staffing available to plow snow after winter storms.

Councilwoman Lisa Keller said she heard complaints from residents who said it took too long to plow residential streets following the storm that rolled through Central Ohio on Dec. 27.

The storm brought six to 10 inches of snow accumulation and icy roads, prompting Delaware County officials to declare a Level 2 snow emergency.

"I know they're working as hard as they can possibly work out there, but we need to think about this," Keller said. "We can't just keep building miles and miles of new roads and not address this."

Homan said residential streets are a low priority for plowing during snow emergencies. Crews first work to clear highways that run through Delaware: routes 23, 36, 37, 42 and 521.

School zones and connector roads get second priority, and neighborhoods generally are plowed last.

In all, the city of Delaware is responsible for snow and ice removal on about 360 lane miles of roadway.

Homan said the current level of plowing services generally has been adequate in recent years, but added council could consider increasing capacity in the future.

"If we had a winter where it was snowing every weekend, we might think about increasing that capacity, increasing personnel or contracting," he said.

Fiscal Officer Dean Stelzer said the city has offset the need for more large trucks in recent years by outfitting the city's smaller trucks with plows. He added the city could contract for additional snow removal if necessary in the future.

Currently, the city's fleet includes 10 two-ton dump trucks that are used for plowing, salting and hauling in the winter months, with one replacement truck budgeted for 2013. Smaller trucks, backhoes and snow blowers provide backup support.

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