Reynoldsburg City Council will start the year with a series of special meetings to discuss the 2014 budget.
Finance committee members agreed Monday, Jan. 6, to hold the first special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13, one hour before the regular city council meeting begins at the municipal building, 7232 E. Main St.
Other special meetings will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, and Monday, Jan. 27, also at the municipal building.
Auditor Richard Harris said the final 2014 city budget must be submitted to the Franklin County Auditor's Office by March 31.
Finance committee Chairman Barth Cotner said meetings could be held at 6:30 p.m. every Monday until the full council comes to a consensus on this year's budget.
After agreeing on times and dates for the special sessions, though, council members disagreed on how to dissect and improve the 2014 interim budget, which was approved by a split vote early in December.
Councilwoman Leslie Kelly wanted department heads to present their budgets at the special meetings.
"It is important for me to understand first what each department needs," she said. "I make better-informed decisions when I have more information."
Councilman Scott Barrett said he thinks members should dissect the 2014 interim budget line-by-line to find possible cuts and savings.
"I think we should bring our own ideas to the meetings," he said. "We have an interim budget that has been presented. In this planning stage, I think we should be talking about the possibilities for each department. If we have to move revenue to different areas of the city, we have to do that at the managerial level."
Kelly said she wants to hear from department heads.
"I could look at the budget and give an opinion, but without talking to Joe (Brown, director of the city's parks and recreation department) about the parks and rec programs, how would I come up with good suggestions for savings?" she asked.
New Councilman Dan Skinner said he agrees with Kelly.
"We should hear from department heads so that we can listen to their priorities," he said.
Councilman Mel Clemens said council must ultimately establish the budget numbers.
"We are working with the numbers and we are the ones making the judgment in how much money will be spent," he said.
Councilman Chris Long said he can see the value in both approaches, but believes council members should look at the line items in the budget first, then ask directors about their budget needs.
Councilman Cornelius McGrady III said the full council should give department heads an idea about when they would need to be present at the special meetings.
Cotner said he also likes both approaches.
"I think we should start with an open dialogue about how to move forward and then have a department head like Mr. Brown present his budget," he said. "We will meet every Monday and everyone will be able to share what their vision may be for the budget."
Prior to the committee meetings Jan. 6, council held an organizational session during which Long was elected president pro tempore; he will serve as council president when Doug Joseph is absent. Members also agreed to continue the practice of having all members serve on all committees.