Residents have until early December to review 2021 budget

Gary Seman Jr.
ThisWeek group
The Worthington Municipal Building is at 6550 High St.

Worthington City Council likely will approve its operating and capital-improvements budgets Dec. 7, giving residents time to weigh in on the spending documents.

Finance director Scott Bartter said there still is time for residents to be informed and engaged. The city has created a webpage at worthington.org/budget that includes detailed information about the budget proposal and the budgeting process, Bartter said.

The city of Worthington will see a reduction of 1.4% in its 2021 operating budget, with the loss attributed primarily to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The proposed budget, introduced Oct. 12 and most recently discussed Nov. 16, was $32,034,745, Bartter said.

That represents a $465,225 decrease from the 2020 budget.

Bartter said he expects a few minor changes – but nothing substantial – to the budget before it is adopted by council.

Although tax receipts are down only about 1%, “the 2021 projections are down significantly from where we had hoped they would be when we adopted the 2020 budget,” Bartter said. “We have also experienced a significant drop in revenue in the parks and recreation department, as COVID-19 has severely limited programming.”

The public hearing for the adoption of the 2021 budget and a resolution to adopt the proposed capital-improvements plan, or funds for physical improvements, is slated Dec. 7.

The CIP for 2020 had total expenditures from the CIP fund of $12.82 million, Brown said. The proposed CIP for 2021 has total expenditures from the CIP fund of $11.12 million – a 13% decrease from the previous year, she said.

The proposed five-year capital forecast “focuses on maintaining existing public infrastructure within the city while facing very constrained financial situation,” Bartter said.

Notable funded projects for 2021 include $1.55 million for water-line improvements along Colonial and Foster avenues $1 million in sanitary-sewer improvements and $1.8 million for McCord Park as city officials seek up to $1 million from outside sources, said city spokesperson Anne Brown.

The proposed CIP includes additional funding in future years (2022 to 2025) for sanitary-sewer and water-line projects, Brown said.

The city realized $450,000 in cost savings when it moved its 911-dispatching services to the Northwest Regional Emergency Communications Center in Dublin, Bartter said.

“The proposed budget shows a moderate increase in funding toward economic development as the city continues to focus on the economic vitality of the Wilson Bridge Road corridor,” he said.

On another positive note, the city was granted $1.35 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds, Bartter said.

Council President Bonnie Michael said the pandemic has had a cascading effect: People are working fewer hours and holding back on purchases, with local shops responding by employing fewer people, resulting in less money in tax receipts.

“The best we can do is keep economic development moving as much as we can,” Michael said. “The city’s been tightening its belt. There are at least five positions we’re not filling.”

gseman@thisweeeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary