Upper Arlington City Council wants to add "some inherent brakes" to city policies governing finances, debt and investment.

Upper Arlington City Council wants to add "some inherent brakes" to city policies governing finances, debt and investment.

At its conference session Monday, Aug. 20, council discussed the recommendations of the financial review committee, comprising council President Frank Ciotola, John C. Adams and David DeCapua.

"Other than some cleanup, there were basically two major changes," Ciotola said.

Under the proposed policy changes, Upper Arlington's general fund reserve would be increased from 20 percent to 30 percent of the city's annual expenditures. In addition, the city would be restricted from drawing down the fund balance while developing the budget.

"We're trying to find a way to put some inherent brakes in our policies," Ciotola said.

According to the 2011-12 biennial budget supplement, the city finished the 2011 fiscal year with a fund balance of about $15 million, with $8 million in the unrestricted fund balance and $7 million in the restricted fund. However, those amounts are projected to decline in the coming years due to revenue hits the city has taken recently, including reductions in Local Government Fund allocations from the state and the elimination of the estate tax.

Adams said the intent of the changes is to force a public discussion if council finds it may need to spend more than it is taking in. If there is to be an exception to the policy, it would require explicit permission from council, he added.

"It has to be that kind of discussion to force the issue," Adams said.

Other council members said the language in the proposals should be clearer.

"We don't want to box ourselves in a corner when we're in dire financial straits to be unable to tap the balance fund," Councilman Erik Yassenoff said.

City Finance Director Cathe Armstrong said officials would try to make the language clearer.

City Manager Ted Staton said meeting those two policies should not be an issue in fiscal year 2013.

"But beginning in 2014 and beyond, that may become difficult," he said.

In other news, council also discussed a ban on texting while driving.

City Attorney Jeanine Hummer said she could draft legislation that would, if approved, bring the city's law in line with the new state law.

"That would probably be the safest approach in terms of potential challenges," she said.

Hummer said Upper Arlington also could make a texting ban more restrictive than the state's, but council members indicated they were in favor of aligning with the state on the issue.

According to a staff report from Hummer's office, beginning Sept. 1, House Bill 99 will regulate texting while driving by prohibiting adults "from using a handheld electronic wireless communications device to write, send or read a text-based communication ... and minors from using, in any manner, an electronic wireless communications device while driving."

One of the benefits for the city of having local legislation, according to the staff report, is it would the allow violators to be cited into mayor's court, saving time for residents who are charged and police officers called to testify.

Both Hummer and Police Chief Brian Quinn said enforcing any texting-while-driving ban would be difficult.

"I'm more supportive of a distracted-driver ordinance," Quinn said. "Distracted driving encompasses more of what we're looking for."