Bexley City Council may have passed a finalized budget, but some members are not content with the results.

Bexley City Council may have passed a finalized budget, but some members are not content with the results.

Council voted 4-3 Dec. 16 to approve a general fund budget of $11.6-million for 2009.

Finance director Beecher Hale estimates the city will bring in about $9.7-million in revenue next year -- $250,000 less than in 2008.

With a $2-million carryover from the 2008 general fund, the city is left with a 2009 year-end balance of about $39,000.

A few council members were displeased with this final number.

Ben Kessler, who joined city council after the 2008 budget discussions were completed, said earlier this year that he would be uncomfortable with spending more money than the city earned in revenue.

Kessler voiced these thoughts again at the Dec. 16 meeting.

"When we first delved into this budget, I said I would not be comfortable unless we ended the year with a balanced budget," he said. "I know that we have agonized over this process, but I don't think we're there yet. I will be voting no tonight because of that."

Council member Mark Masser shared similar sentiments.

He said he voted no on the 2008 general fund budget for the same reason and said he did not want to be a hypocrite and vote yes on the 2009 budget.

"This is the first time I have sat on this council that we are projecting a negative balance at the end of the year," Masser said. "We are confined to the fact that we have to pass this budget by Dec. 31."

Council member Rick Weber said he voted against the ordinance because other council members thought there was more that could be cut.

"For all the time I have been on council, this is the largest-impacting ordinance we vote on," he said at the meeting. "I don't think any of us are jumping up and down about $39,000. I will vote no, too, if we can get to a number that makes the two of you happy."

After the meeting, Weber said he thinks all council members were frustrated with the final number.

"I appreciate that we ended up above zero," he said. "I was willing to do more work, though."

Weber said council always budgets to spend more than it takes in, to some extent.

"We've always had a general fund balance," he said. "That balance is becoming less and less."

City auditor Larry Heiser said that over the past few years, council has approved spending for larger capital improvement projects, such as the new pool and the future police station. This is part of the reason why the general-fund carryover balance has been less from year to year, he said.

Heiser said he is not entirely pleased with the final budget.

"I am not as enthusiastic as I was in the beginning of the budget season," he said. "We really are experiencing part of the national economy and part of the bad state economy. We've had a bunch of years of poor management. That's never been part of any discussion --that part of our plight is past practices. We could have weathered a bad storm better if we had managed funds earlier."

Heiser said he thinks many of the problems originated with the construction of the new pool.

"We got where we are now, and we just need to figure out a way to go forward," he said.

Many council members agreed that one way to move forward is by finding new sources of revenue.

Weber said the city will have to think about this before it moves forward in the next few months.

"We will be hard-pressed to get there without new revenue," he said. "I think the recreation board needs to look at that. I think the writing on the wall is that we have to look at this. The nickel-and-diming isn't going to make a difference in the long run."

Mayor John Brennan has set up a financial task force to look at future spending and revenue for the city. The group has met twice and plans to report back to council in four months.

"They may have to raise taxes without waiting for the (financial) task force," he said.