Delaware City Council on Dec. 20 approved the city's 2019 budget with a split vote after a debate on the definition of a balanced budget.

The budget lists the general fund at $23,724,382 revenue, $23,971,947 expenditures and a $4,216,142 beginning balance.

During discussion of the budget Dec. 10, council member Lisa Keller said she would feel "personally uncomfortable" approving a budget with expenditures exceeding listed revenue. She said Dec. 20 that, since 2009, city leaders always have "talked about a balanced budget, and we always kind of all had the same definition, and that definition was our expenditures don't exceed our revenues when we make our plan."

She also said she re-examined the budget proposals from 2010 to 2016 and each was described as balanced by the city administration.

While she said she doesn't fear the city won't pay its bills or will run out of money, she said, "I don't support a budget that revenues do not exceed the expenditures."

Both Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle and City Manager Tom Homan said some of the original budget plans that Keller cited needed supplemental appropriations before each year ended.

"If we found a way to balance (the budget proposal) back then, we for sure can find a way to balance it now," Keller said.

Councilman Chris Jones said he agreed with Keller. When residents look at the budget on the city website, they will conclude "they're spending more than they're bringing in," he said.

"We're not adopting an unbalanced budget," Homan said. "If you take a look at our financial-management practices, which have been provided to City Council, it indicates that the reserve can be used as a resource when setting the budget."

Homan added the practice of using the fund balance as a resource when setting a budget is "acceptable in our community and most communities."

"If you just want to see that simplistic approach of expenditures equaling revenue," it handily could be accomplished, city Finance Director Dean Stelzer said.

Stelzer pointed to annual transfers of money to the capital-improvement plan, which lists capital-improvement projects.

"I could reduce the transfer we have (in 2019), increasing to the CIP this year and reducing it in 2019 by $250,000," he said. "Budget's in balance and the same amount of money's going to the CIP, so it's just a timing issue if that's merely the issue.

"There's a lot of other things that have timing issues," Stelzer said. "Making sure our budget is structurally balanced to me isn't just a snapshot of projected revenues versus expenditures; it's a continual type of thing."

Keller and Jones voted against the ordinance.

The budget can be viewed at tinyurl.com/delawarebudget.

Also Dec. 20, council approved the combined preliminary and final development plan for a new Junior Fair building at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. During the city planning commission meeting Dec. 5, fair board member Pat Paykoff said the board likely will seek a temporary occupancy permit to allow at least part of the new building to be used for the 2019 fair, with the building's completion occurring later.

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