Johnstown Independent

Johnstown's budget delay results in nearly $500K savings

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More than four months into 2014, Johnstown Village Council has completed its annual budget for the year.

Council on April 15 unanimously approved an ordinance amending the preliminary budget that had been approved in January.

Citing uncertainty about projected figures in August and September, Mayor Sean Staneart suggested that council wait until it had all of the figures for 2013 before passing the 2014 budget.

"We're dealing with some pretty thin margins here, and we want to be sure that we do it right," Staneart said in December.

Finance director Heber Howard said the goal was to focus on accuracy.

"We tried to streamline the budget a little better this year," he said. "We wanted to get more of an accurate picture and see where we were."

After passing a preliminary 2014 budget, which, officials said, was nearly an exact copy of the 2013 budget, the amendments approved April 15 saved the city nearly $500,000, Village Manager Jim Lenner said.

"We did a lot of investigating," he said. "Health insurance costs actually decreased for us, so that was a big savings. And then we just tried to cut as much as we could to be as lean as we could."

Along with more than $38,000 in medical and dental insurance savings, some other large cuts included $48,000 in officer salaries, $42,000 in dispatcher salaries, $55,000 in economic-development incentives, $90,000 in engineering services, $19,000 on streets, highways, sidewalks and curbs, $60,000 in machinery and equipment, $30,000 on motor vehicles and $23,000 on utility distribution systems.

The village's total savings after amendments was $491,730.30, nearly covering the entire gap of more than $560,000 between the appropriations and revenues in the initial budget.

Despite the savings, Howard said, he's not sure waiting until April is a viable strategy for each yearly budget.

"I wouldn't suggest doing it every year," he said. "I think we've found some efficiencies, but I think it's also created a lot of work at the same time with these ordinances and making the adjustments and doing everything that comes along with that. So I don't know if this is something that we're looking to do every few years or if it's a one time thing."

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