Hilliard City Council members are looking closely at the 2019 general-fund operating budget, and amendments to it during 2019 are certain, according to council President Albert Iosue.

Legislation to approve the general-fund and capital-improvements budgets is scheduled for a third and final reading Dec. 10.

"We have always taken a detailed look at the budget," Iosue said.

But this year is a little different, he said. That includes a decision not to fund some vacant positions until the transition to a city-manager form of government progresses.

On Nov. 6, Hilliard voters approved Issue 33, a charter amendment that replaces the city's elected "strong-mayor" model of government with a city manager, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

"I think it is best that a city manager (once hired) have some input on some of these vacancies," Iosue said Nov. 20, a day after council members spent more than five hours at a work session, dissecting the general-fund and capital-improvements budgets line item by line item.

The proposed 2019 general-fund operating budget is $27.2 million and represents a 4.2 percent increase compared to 2018, when it was $26.1 million.

Among the positions council members are suggesting not be funded immediately are city architect and deputy city planner.

At the Nov. 19 work session, council Vice President Kelly McGivern questioned the need for the new position of deputy city planner.

"He's swamped," council clerk Lynne Fasone said about the workload of city planner John Talentino.

Councilman Andy Teater said the position could remain unfunded for one year and Councilman Les Carrier questioned if a lame-duck mayor could recruit effectively for it.

Iosue suggested to invite Talentino to "present his case" for its immediate need.

Council members also said they would seek clarity from the city concerning the cost to hire a city architect rather than to continue contracting for the service on an as-needed basis. Iosue said City Council also could amend the proposed budget to mirror actual expenses made in 2018 rather than matching what was budgeted.

"The administration isn't spending what was budgeted (in some accounts)," he said.

In other areas, City Council could increase the budget.

Carrier, in response to the Hilliard City Schools asking for a full-time Hilliard Division of Police school resource officer in each of its three middle schools, said he supports funding the two additional officers to make it a reality.

Currently, each of the district's three high schools has a dedicated officer and a fourth SRO covers the three middle schools.

But, Iosue said, he does not supporting funding more SROs until it is a certainty the positions could be filled in time to start the 2019-20 school year in August.

That is not certain, according to safety director Jim Mosic, because of attrition, the limited capacity of each police academy class and the time requirement for recruits to graduate from the academy, complete field training and meet other requirements.

Mosic and police Chief Bobby Fisher previously told council members the division would not curtail the resources of the patrol bureau at the street level to increase the number of SROs in the schools.

Iosue said he also would require a formal written agreement concerning the district's share of funding for additional SROs before proceeding.

Because of council members' preferred approach to the 2019 budget, Iosue said, the budget would need amended during the course of 2019 to allow for changes as they are identified.

"It will be amended (during 2019)," he said

On the capital-improvements side, Carrier supported the proposed funding to modify the pair of roundabouts on Main Street, which have been identified in recent years as accident-prone intersections from Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission studies. However, he lobbied to remove funding related to community education for proper use of roundabouts.

"We simply can't afford that much given all the other items, Carrier said. "The best way to educate on this matter is to have Hilliard police sit there and issue tickets for failure to yield and speeding, which is what is causing the wrecks. Officers at high-traffic peak times will have a direct impact, quickly."

The proposed capital-improvements budget for 2019 is $18.3 million. The 2018 budget was $19.1 million.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo