Upper Arlington News

UA to operate with smaller budget, fewer people in 2014

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For the second consecutive year, the city of Upper Arlington will seek to operate under a slightly reduced budget.

In November, City Manager Ted Staton outlined a projected $28-million operating budget for the city in 2014, which reflects how much revenue the city anticipates receiving this year for operations.

Expenditures, however, are expected to be slightly higher at $28.5 million, which means the city will dip into its rainy day fund to make up the difference.

This year's projected budget represents a $591,000 decrease in operating -- or general fund --expenditures from 2013.

Upper Arlington City Council passed a two-year operating budget for 2013 and 2014 in December 2012.

At that time, council passed a $28.1 million budget for 2013, which was approximately $310,000 less than the city's operating budget for 2012.

Despite the reduced spending, the city's revenues this year are expected to be outpaced by general fund expenditures by approximately $500,000.

However, Staton noted in a November budget message to council that projected deficits have dropped from original estimates.

"Projections for 2014 indicated that our expenditure needs would exceed revenues, making this mid-budget review more important than most," Staton said. "Pursuant to my promise to you, we have been able to significantly reduce this gap.

"What was a $1.8-million deficit is now projected to be less than $500,000. This can be attributed primarily to a continued reduction in staffing levels," he said.

According to Upper Arlington Community Affairs Director Emma Speight, the city will begin 2014 with fewer staffed positions than in 2013.

In the two-year budget cycle for 2013-14, the city has identified the reduction of 22 full-time positions. They include:

• Assistant City Manager Joe Valentino, who resigned Dec. 31, 2013.

• The retirement of a planning officer and management assistant in the Community and Economic Development Department, in addition to the resignation of an assistant code enforcement officer and the planned retirement of Development Department Director Dean Sivinski this summer.

• The elimination of a building maintenance supervisor in the Facilities Maintenance Division.

• The resignation of a tax administrator and retirements of a human resources assistant and an examiner in the Finance and Administrative Services Division.

• The elimination of a help desk technician in the Information Technology Division.

• The transfer of a lifelong learning and leisure director from the Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation Department to the Upper Arlington Senior Center, which is not a city position, and the retirement of a parks maintenance crew chief.

• The retirement of a management assistant in the Upper Arlington Police Division.

• The resignation of an administrative assistant in the Public Services Division.

• The resignation of a public service supervisor and the retirement of a street maintenance worker in the Public Utilities Division.

In 2014, the city will have 218 full-time employees.

The $500,000 spending gap will be covered by the city's reserve, or "rainy day" fund, which was approximately $9 million at the end of 2013.

"The (2014) general fund is still carrying a 30-percent rainy day fund -- $8.5 million -- that isn't being touched by this half-million deficit," Upper Arlington Finance Director Cathe Armstrong said.

Of the $28.5 million in general fund expenditures, the Upper Arlington Fire Division is expected to receive the biggest appropriation in 2014 of approximately $8.07 million.

That's slightly down, however, from the approximately $8.29 million earmarked for the department in 2013.

In other public safety funding, the police division will receive about $7.6 million in general fund dollars, up from $7.39 million in 2013.

Police Chief Brian Quinn said recently he didn't request any "major" increases for this year, but noted federal funding from crime-related asset seizures will allow his division to provide an officer to cover Upper Arlington schools during school hours.

"We're adding a school resource officer," Quinn said. "There currently are no school resource officers (at Upper Arlington schools).

"We are adding that to personnel, but the impact to the (city) budget will be zero."

Most city departments are projected to receive small decreases in funding this year.

Among those seeing dips will be Public Service Administration, which is going from about $1.04 million in 2013 to $922,806; the Finance and Administrative Services Department, which will be reduced from approximately $1.16 million to $1.08 million; and the Community and Economic Development Department, which received approximately $1.07 million in 2013 and has been appropriated about $1.01 million this year.

Additionally, $728,178 has been budgeted for the city manager's office in 2014 compared to receiving $746,860 in 2013, and funding for the Public Works Division -- formerly the Streets Division -- has been reduced from $458,748 in 2013 to a projected $399,367.

In addition to fire and police, areas of the budget seeing slight increases in 2014 are expected to include council, which will see funding go from $136,568 to $167,117; the Parks and Recreation Department, which will go from approximately $2.91 million to about $2.97 million; and the city attorney's office, which will receive a bump from $740,481 to $742,335.

Additionally, $750,000 has been set aside for infrastructure upgrades this year.

In his budget message to council, Staton said the 2014 budget is "lean" and "does not set aside funds for unanticipated issues with our facilities" or "unforeseen special projects or community issues."

He also noted that the new council-appointed Citizens Financial Review Task Force will be examining ways to make up nearly $6 million in lost revenues from the elimination of the Ohio estate tax and cuts in the Local Government Fund.

Staton indicated that city leaders will have to discover more permanent solutions to provide adequate funds for city services, personnel and infrastructure needs.

"For the longer term, the time is fast approaching for the city's leaders to decide the best courses of action for keeping our services strong and tackling a backlog of deferred capital needs," Staton said. "It is our hope that convening a team of citizen volunteers with financial expertise early in the new year will assist us greatly as we embark on this effort."

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