Pickerington City Council will hear the first reading in May of an ordinance that would reallocate some city funds to pay for a July 4 celebration.

Pickerington City Council will hear the first reading in May of an ordinance that would reallocate some city funds to pay for a July 4 celebration.

Council's finance committee voted 4-3 last week to support Councilman Brian Sauer's plan to use $12,000 in funds he and other city officials believe won't be needed for appropriated purposes, and use the money instead for a community July 4 event.

Under the plan, which still needs formal council approval, Violet Township also would contribute $12,000 to co-finance a joint community celebration, including a nighttime fireworks display. Pickerington City Manager Tim Hansley said he's received a "verbal commitment" from township officials to partner in the event, pending council's approval of the plan.

"From my point of view, the money is there," Sauer said. "Are we being deceitful to residents when we say the money's not there?"

Last December, council axed the city's annual Fourth of July event and fireworks display, citing budget constraints. The move was unanimously supported as council passed a 2009 operating budget that cut more than $750,000 in spending from the previous year.

Last month, Sauer asked council to reconsider the Fourth of July celebration after noting it appeared the city would spend anywhere from $400 to $3,000 less than was budgeted on a variety of line items, including personnel training and legislative advertising.

While Hansley said pulling Fourth of July money from the existing budget was "very achievable," Mayor Mitch O'Brien -- who doesn't have a vote on council -- and council members Cristie Hammond, Brian Wisniewski and Keith Smith objected to the change in course. They said it sends the wrong message to residents who soon might be asked to support an increase in local taxes and opens the door to other council members' pet projects.

"I like the Fourth of July, but I'm not in favor, again, of changing our budget," Hammond said.

Council members Mike Sabatino and Tricia Sanders, council's vice president pro tempore, argued the event is worthwhile because it will give a lift to many in the community suffering through a down economy. They also said it would show goodwill between the city and township, two entities which have clashed over political issues in the past.

"I think, by and large, this illustrates us finding creative ways and working with our compadres in Violet Township to have a community event," Sabatino said.

Council is expected to hear the first reading of legislation to reallocate the funds at its first May meeting.

Should the ordinance be adopted, Hansley said, the city would appropriate $24,000 for the event and accept a $12,000 donation from the township.

Of that money, Hansley said, less than $10,000 would be put toward a fireworks display. The balance would be spent to host a parade, provide other entertainment and to pay for police and fire support at the event.

"The city of 15,000 people has always hosted a Fourth of July event for a community (including Violet Township) of 40,000," he said. "This is a better way to do it because it's a partnership with the township. I really appreciate the township being a willing participant."

nellis@thisweeknews.com