Reynoldsburg City Council held the first of several special finance committee meetings Jan. 13 as city leaders began to dissect the 2014 interim budget and go over individual department requests.
Special meetings are scheduled an hour before regular committee or council meetings this month. The next finance committee meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, at the municipal building, 7232 E. Main St.
Councilman Scott Barrett said he hopes to "change the way we've been doing things."
He suggested raising program fees in the city's parks and recreation department and finding ways to make some departments self-funded.
However, Parks and Recreation Department Director Joe Brown said fees have already been increased by $5 and City Auditor Richard Harris said making departments self-funded isn't easy to do.
For instance, he said, the Building and Zoning Department brings in about $250,000, but is spending $308,000.
"Can that department come up with additional revenue through increased fees?" Harris asked. "You could work that out with them and then they could fund themselves, which is easy to say and difficult to do.
"If you make a deck permit $500, then people probably won't get one and then they might be building stuff below standard that is unsafe," he said. "Most cities do not have departments other than utilities that are self-funded."
Councilman Mel Clemens said his goal is to balance the budget, but he also wants the city to allocate more to infrastructure.
"You can drive through Reynoldsburg and see what some of the streets look like," he said. "I'd like to see some of these things taken care of. If we have to cut here and there, then we have to cut.
"Just like in your own home, you should only spend what you bring in," Clemens said.
"Once the budget is balanced, then you can think of what projects you might want to do. We will have to reduce someone's budget to be able to do those projects."
Barrett said looking at department revenue "may be our last avenue of support."
"We have come full circle to the fact we don't have enough revenue, so we need to ask department heads to pump up their own revenue," he said.
Brown said he anticipates possible new revenue of about $119,000 for Parks and Recreation this year.
Figures he presented to the finance committee show actual expenses in 2013 of $1,073,176.90 and a budget request of $1,202,893.90 for 2014, a difference of $129,717.
He said increasing fees by $5 and stopping early bird discounts could result in a $27,739 increase in revenue. His department will also begin collecting the Senior Center members' fees, which will bring in another $30,000.
Brown said his sponsorship goal this year is $35,000.
Pending agreements with the Columbus Clippers and Columbus Crew to create fall baseball leagues and run a recreational soccer league could also result in reduced expenses and increased revenue, he said.
Mayor Brad McCloud said he is concerned about "taking quantum leaps" when it comes to fees.
"If we have to increase too much, then parents will have to drop kids out of certain sports," he said.
"When you have to make street repairs, then maybe Johnny will have to miss a year of football," Barrett responded.
Brown said the city may have to spend more money on supplies. He pulled out a bag of taped-up metal bats, a frayed catcher's chest guard, a soccer ball with chunks out of it and a batting helmet that had no padding inside.
"Part of my request was to replace supplies," he said. "Some of this equipment is more than 10 years old."
McCloud said the city can't raise program fees and give out damaged equipment.
In addition, Brown said, there are 10 baseball fields at JFK Park that need repairs "and our fencing is from 1978."
Councilman Barth Cotner said he considers replacing supplies a "strong safety issue."
"When I see kids climbing through holes in a fence backstop, then I see this as a safety issue," he said. "Some of these dollars need to stay where they are allocated."