Though Heath City Council members plan to pass a 2010 budget by the end of December, it will not be the completed budget that officials will use next year.

Though Heath City Council members plan to pass a 2010 budget by the end of December, it will not be the completed budget that officials will use next year.

Outgoing Mayor Richard Waugh has asked council members to pass an interim budget so Mayor-elect Mark Johns can help make the final decisions on next year's numbers when he takes office in January.

Keith Alexander, city auditor, said Johns and the rest of council would have three months to pass a permanent 2010 budget.

He said the interim budget represents department heads' wish lists, which will be pared down before the final budget is approved next year.

"In all of my tenure here, which is more than 17 years, we've never passed an interim budget," Alexander said. "But we've never had an incumbent mayor defeated. This is a different situation."

He thinks passing an interim budget is a good arrangement.

"I believe that Mayor Waugh is doing the statesman-type thing," Alexander said. "He is being quite respectful of the mayor-elect. Normally, we would pass a budget in December, but normally we don't have a new mayor taking office in January."

Waugh, who was appointed as mayor in 2007, said he thinks he and council have decided to do the appropriate thing.

"It would be inappropriate for me to saddle the mayor with the next budget that I put together," he said. "I've met with the mayor-elect two different times and discussed it.'

He hopes to have a preliminary budget in front of council at its next meeting Dec. 7.

Alexander said members might be asked to approve the interim budget at the following meeting on Dec. 21.

Council member Christopher May said he agreed that this was the appropriate way to proceed.

"I think it would be a bad thing for a new mayor coming in to have to deal with something that somebody else put into place," he said.

He said council members would work to complete the final budget as soon as possible after Johns takes office.

The city is looking at a general-fund budget of about $6.4-million for 2010, compared to the $6.8-million budget in 2009, Alexander said.

As it stands, he said, the city looks to spend about $800,000 more than it plans to collect in revenue.

"Our revenue this year was down from the previous year, and we anticipate next year's revenue will be down from this year's," Alexander said. "Our expenses have risen while our revenue receipts and expectations are down. This is not a good thing. We, like other governments, are going to probably be looking at some deficit numbers initially."

He previously has reported that the city's income-tax collection is down about 6 percent compared to 2008.

Alexander said the new mayor and council members would have to consider options for reducing spending and increasing revenue.

Johns said he is glad he will be able to ask council to approve a budget that he has helped form.

"He (Waugh) and I have spoken about it, and we were both in agreement that this was a good way for the city to proceed," Johns said. "That way, as the incoming mayor, it's not as though I'll be presiding over someone else's budget. It allows me to get into office to set my priorities and go from there. He and I were in complete agreement."

gmartineau@thisweeknews.com