The Newark City Council has passed a $31.5 million general-fund budget for 2017, which is about a 5 percent increase from this year's budget.

The Newark City Council has passed a $31.5 million general-fund budget for 2017, which is about a 5 percent increase from this year's budget.

Unlike the past three years, the city is not dipping into its budget-stabilization money, or rainy-day fund, to balance the new budget.

"It is a very tight budget, something that there's not a whole lot of wiggle room," Councilman Doug Marmie, chairman of the finance committee, said Dec. 27. "I'm sure there are still going to be things that are going to come up throughout the year we're going to have to make some additional decisions on. However, I do really like the fact that we did not have to dip into the rainy-day fund."

Health insurance costs account for much of the increase in the 2017 spending plan, Mayor Jeff Hall said, but increased income-tax collections helped balance the budget. The city can't pinpoint why tax revenues were up, but Hall speculated that the new Kroger Marketplace on North 21st Street and ongoing construction helped.

Council members also passed a measure Dec. 27 that will distribute 86 percent of income-tax funds for operating expenses, leaving 14 percent for capital improvements. Budgets for the previous two years had a 90 percent/10 percent split.

The local police union is negotiating a contract, with fire and civilian union negotiations expected later in 2017. But there's no money available in the 2017 budget for pay raises, Hall said.

In November, Newark voters rejected a quarter-percentage-point income-tax increase, which officials said would have generated about $1.5 million a year for road improvements and $400,000 for police and fire vehicles and equipment.

The city is considering whether to put another income-tax increase on the May ballot.

jsmola@dispatch.com

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