Grove City Council cleared its slate of 2013 business by approving the city's 2014 budget at its last meeting of the year.
On Dec. 16, council voted 4-0 to approve the 2014 budget the administration had submitted, with a few changes from the initial proposal. Council members Steve Bennett, Maria Klemack-McGraw, Jeff Davis and Melissa Albright voted in favor of the budget, with Council President Ted Berry absent. Bennett was voted in as acting chairman.
"There are some things in here I'm not thrilled about," Bennett said of the budget. "We do have a healthy, local economy. We are a healthy community."
The approved budget shows total general fund revenue is projected to be $25.2 million, which is 22 percent less than it was 2013. Of the general fund revenue, income tax revenue for 2014 is now estimated to be $20.7 million, up from the initial estimate of $20.2 million.
The increased revenue projection is based on more up-to-date estimates from receipts of late 2013, Finance Director Mike Turner said.
Overall, the city is budgeting $26.1 million in expenditures for the general fund, down from the $28.9 million appropriated in 2013. Of those general fund expenditures, operations will account for $21.4 million, down from the initial proposal of $21.5 million.
The lower expenses are the result of a $145,000 decrease in requested general government expenditures, from roughly $4.7 million to $4.5 million. They are still 7 percent higher than 2013.
Expenditures will exceed income tax revenue, but the city anticipates additional revenue from such sources as the local government fund, hotel taxes and property taxes. The budget taps into the city's general fund carryover reserves to pay for capital improvement projects. The general fund balance is expected to decline 5 percent, from $18.5 million to $17.6 million.
"It's not deficit spending," Turner said. "We have other revenue sources in addition to income tax collection."
Departments seeing an increase in funding include police, from $8.8 million to $9.1 million; communications, from $1.2 million to $1.6 million; building, from $795,486 to $908,885; lands and building, from $2.9 million to $3.1 million; parks and recreation, from $1.1 million to $1.2 million; and development, from $478,247 to $520,108.
The city is projecting $6.2 million in capital expenditures, down from nearly $10.1 million in 2013. Some of the projects include $2.2 million for the street program, $900,000 for improvements at Windsor Park, $475,000 for the sidewalk program and $350,000 for a Hoover Road bike path.
In a financial meeting held Dec. 11 to discuss the budget, Berry said he would prefer to take the capital improvements projects out of the budget and vote on them separately after having a meeting to discuss bids, plans and other details.
"I don't like the fact I'm approving numbers without bids and plans," Berry said at the time. "We're just appropriating dollars at this point. I'm not against any of them. I just want to do them right."
At the same committee meeting, Albright said she would be against taking the capital improvements out of the budget, adding that it would cost time and be "putting handcuffs on the administration."