Residents will have an opportunity to provide input on Gahanna's proposed $72 million budget for 2018 on Monday, Dec. 18, when a second reading of the document is scheduled.

The budget also is expected to be approved at council's 7 p.m. meeting at City Hall, 200 S. Hamilton Road.

Finance Director Joann Bury said the proposed budget has important initiatives that will continue to keep the Sustainable Operating Model intact while continuing implementation of the Go Forward Gahanna Strategic Plan and Mayor Tom Kneeland's Commitment to Gahanna, a plan he shared with the city upon taking office in January.

The Sustaining Operating Model, developed in 2014, requires operations to be financed through ongoing revenue and doesn't rely on one-time windfalls, accumulated savings or short-term cost-cutting measures to balance the operating budget.

Go Forward Gahanna, an initiative developed by the city to engage with businesses and residents, resulted in 22 goals identified as city priorities.

"In addition to funding a number of projects to achieve results within the Go Forward Gahanna Strategic Plan, the city has also begun developing strategic business plans for each department," Bury said. "These departmental plans will be linked to the citywide strategic plan, or Mayor's Commitment to Gahanna, which will allow the city to continue to budget and report out to residents and other stakeholders the progress made toward meeting the results and goals within these initiatives."

Kneeland wrote an eight-page introduction to council and residents in the 278-page budget document.

"The budget allocates one-time resources to invest in high priority one-time capital investments that align with the city's strategic priorities, and it identifies long-term challenges to the city's infrastructure funding model that will need to be addressed in the coming years," Kneeland said.

He wrote that the city's focus on financial sustainability is driven in large part by the challenges posed by Gahanna's revenue environment.

"For 2018, we anticipate general fund revenues of $28.6 million, which continues to be slightly lower than typical revenue levels prior to the Great Recession," Kneeland said. "Gahanna does not have a sufficient dedicated funding stream for needed capital improvements like roads, bridges and infrastructure.

"While the city does receive funding in the street and state highway funds from motor vehicle registrations and gas tax, the amounts received are barely sufficient to cover routine maintenance, such as snow removal."

He said this is the fourth year the budget request is based on the Sustainable Operating Model, a rolling five-year plan for city operations funded by the general fund.

"It combines information from our historical trends, future revenue and expense projections and our five-year Capital Needs Assessment to determine a sustainable ongoing level of operations for the city," Kneeland said.

The 2018-22 Capital Needs Assessment identified $37.3 million in general government projects related to implementing the Go Forward Gahanna strategic plan and an additional $4.5 million in additional high-priority projects during the five-year period.

The proposed plan for one-time investment addresses only the most pressing of city needs, and leaves many unfunded because of limited resources.

Some road projects in the long-term plan for general-fund, one-time resources include the widening of South Stygler Road, $700,000; West Johnstown Road improvements design, $150,000; and Agler Road relocation design, $1 million, among others.

Other 2018 one-time expenses include a citywide camera surveillance system, $10,000; a West Side neighborhood park, $450,000; a fiber-optic network expansion, $200,000; and an audio-visual upgrade to council chambers, $30,000.

The one-time plan differentiates between projects covered by the general fund and those projects and investments that would require tax-increment finance funds, large-scale grants or other funding sources in order to be completed, according to Kneeland.

In some cases, the 2018 budget proposal includes the design elements of a project in the general fund with construction to be completed in future years, only if these outside funding sources are available.

"The work of council and the administration over the coming years will be to maximize the city's return on investment for the remaining one-time resources by prioritizing their use for projects that will help grow the economic base of the city and identify additional sources of funding to address the city's long-term capital investment needs," Kneeland said.

In addition to the city's focus on the priorities identified in the Go Forward Gahanna strategic plan and maintaining a sustainable operating budget, he said, the city also has been focusing on optimizing its performance to ensure effective use of resources and alignment of its programs with best practices.

The city recently partnered with the Ohio Performance Team from the Auditor of State's Office to complete a Leverage for Efficiency, Accountability and Performance Fund audit of the city's programs.

"This performance audit has provided Gahanna elected officials and employees with an objective, third-party analysis of our operations to help us improve performance, reduce costs, and make informed, data-driven decisions," Kneeland said.

In response to the results of the performance audit, Bury said, a near-site wellness center for employees and families covered under the city's health insurance plan will be available in January.

"Usage of the near-site wellness center over time will reduce the cost of providing insurance coverage to employees resulting in a savings of taxpayer dollars," she said. "These savings can potentially be redirected to Go Forward Gahanna or the Mayor's Commitment to Gahanna."

To review the 2018 budget, visit Gahanna.gov and select the "government" drop-down tab, followed by "finances" then "budget."

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla