Powell city personnel expenses topped the discussion at the second citizens' budget advisory meeting Dec. 14.

Powell city personnel expenses topped the discussion at the second citizens' budget advisory meeting Dec. 14.

About 30 people attended and any citizen can participate.

Personnel costs make up about 70 percent of Powell's general fund operating expenses, city documents show.

For 2011, of the $5,857,548 slated for general fund expenses, $4,214,313 is for personnel wages and benefits; $1,439,035 is for operating expenses such as office supplies, utilities, fuel for vehicles and legal fees; and $204,200 is for capital outlay, including office equipment, vehicles and police equipment. Council approved the 2011 appropriations Dec. 7.

At the Dec. 14 meeting, city manager Steve Lutz and fiscal officer Debra Miller gave a brief overview of the city budget and expenditures.

Miller said the city uses "fund accounting," which categorizes expenses and revenues by use.

The general fund is the "city's primary fund" and is "used for day-to-day operations," documents from the meeting show.

Other "special funds" contain money dedicated for specific purposes. Such purposes include parks improvement, road work and debt service.

The city general fund covers 14 departments, covering a total of 45.33 full-time positions. The police department has the most employees, 19.

Lutz and Miller passed out a document showing that the 45.33 full-time employees cost the city $2.86-million in annual wages, including overtime.

Resident Michael Marchiondo said he would like to see employee benefits listed.

Leaving out the benefits "understates the cost," Marchiondo said.

"In my business, I'm not concerned with what (a person) makes, but what (a person) costs," Marchiondo said.

Lutz said the city would provide such a breakdown at the advisory group's next meeting, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 11, at city hall, 47 Hall St.

City employees receive health benefits and public employee retirement contributions.

The city employees belong to either the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System or to the Ohio Police & Fire Fund.

For OPERS, the city contributes 14 percent of wages to the retirement fund and the employee contributes 10 percent.

For OP&F, the city contributes 19.5 percent of the wages and the employee contributes 10 percent.

As a comparison, for Social Security taxes, an employer pays 6.2 percent of an employee's wages to the system and the employee also pays 6.2 percent of wages.

In Ohio, full-time public employees do not pay Social Security tax or receive Social Security benefits.

The advisory group was organized by city council member Sara Marie Brenner as a way to find funds for such capital improvements as roads, sewers and sidewalks.

Voters turned down an income tax increase on the Nov. 2 ballot that city officials said would have generated funds for capital improvements.

Brenner helped a group of residents called Friends of Powell campaign against the increase.

She said the city should instead trim its operating budget and use bond issues for specific projects.

Brenner said the next meeting will examine the pros and cons of contracting for city services and consolidating services with other area governments.

An online copy of the city's budget is available under the link to the finance department at www.cityofpowell.us/government-financedept.php.