Tom Kneeland says he loves the 2017 budget, his first financial plan initiated since becoming Gahanna's mayor last January.

Tom Kneeland says he loves the 2017 budget, his first financial plan initiated since becoming Gahanna's mayor last January.

Gahanna City Council approved the appropriations for current expenses and other expenses for fiscal year 2017 during its Dec. 19 meeting.

"I love it," Kneeland said of the $65.6 million budget.

A breakdown of the allocations includes: general fund, $31.4 million; special-revenue funds, $6.6 million; capital funds, $4.1 million; debt service, $2.2 million; enterprise funds, $19 million; internal-service funds, $230,800; and agency funds, $1.8 million.

"It has grown from a (general) revenue perspective," Kneeland said.

The general fund appropriation in 2016 totaled $29.9 million.

"We took a different approach to the forecast," he said, noting that in the past, the city has been very conservative.

"We didn't want to overestimate the revenue we would have," Kneeland said. "I think we'll be able to lower the conservative approach to the forecast and be more online with reality."

Already looking to 2018, he said, some street rebuilds can be factored into the city's sustainable operating model with general operating dollars.

He said the 2017 budget shows it's a new day in the city by using the GoForward Gahanna strategic plan as a guide.

"The 2017 budget is built upon the city's sustainable operating model, which matches ongoing revenue with our ongoing operations," he said. "It allocates one-time resources to invest in high priority one-time capital and operating expenditures that align with the city's strategic priorities."

The SOM was developed in 2014 and is built upon two key ideas: maintaining the city's existing core infrastructure and assets at a professionally appropriate level; and being able to pay for ongoing operating costs by using ongoing revenue sources.

In other words, he said, the city won't rely on one-time windfalls, accumulated savings or short-term cost-cutting measures to balance its operating budget.

The SOM is a five-year plan for city operations paid for by the general fund, and it's the core of the administration's 2017 budget.

The 2017 budget for operating expenditures across all funds is 4 percent greater than 2016, Kneeland said.

This includes funding for negotiated union-wage increases, increasing insurance costs and other contractual and mandatory increases. These increases were offset considerably by cost-cutting measures across the city, which were achieved by focusing spending on core city services and reducing funding in non-essential areas.

The 2017 budget also includes a modest adjustment in staffing levels related to key city operations, Kneeland added.

Finance Director Joann Bury said the priority of the 2017 budget is to maintain the city's SOM while incorporating the priority areas identified in the GoForward Gahanna citywide strategic plan.

Kneeland said the city's long-term financial planning policies enable proactive financial management -- matching operating expenses and operating revenue over the long-term and providing stability for Gahanna residents, visitors and businesses.

He said these financial policies and the strong work on linking resources to results will continue this year and beyond, as his administration begins to implement the next steps of the Managing for Results program that the GoForward Gahanna strategic planning process began.

Throughout 2017, Kneeland said, city departments will work with Jennifer Teal, city administrator, to develop results-oriented strategic-business plans that will enable Gahanna departments and programs to demonstrate accountability to taxpayers.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla