MOUNT VERNON — As government entities throughout the nation, state and county have battled budget obstacles, the city of Mount Vernon is assured its budget is above deadly waters.
“Without a question we are going to finish this year ‘in the black,’ so to speak,” said Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis.
Although budgetary measure were taken early in the year to assure a steady fiscal year, Mavis said no one had to make any specific amount of cuts.
“It was kind of interesting this year the way our income taxes came in. January and February it looked like, surprising as it was, that we would have a similar year as we had last year, which was a good year. But then in March things began to show their true colors and income began to show declines,” he said.
Revenue generated through income tax is a significant part of the general fund budget, Mavis said, and with foreseen insufficiencies, the city began efforts in March to ensure a stable budget for the year.
“We asked for a percentage reduction and said that this year all departments needed to be conservative,” said Mavis. “Not so much because we were worried; we did have a nice carryover this year from 2008 to 2009, so we were confident that with the income revenue we had projected we were going to be in good shape to get through the year as long as [the departments] observed conservative spending.”
City departments were asked to forecast their budget for 2009, anticipating to economize. The budgets were presented during budget hearings to the mayor, City Auditor Terry Scott and Safety-Service Director David Glass.
The general fund carryover from last year was $2,977,300. The original budget adopted in February 2009 was $14,498,255; as of October, it has been amended to $14,934,080. Expenses from the general fund as of October were $9,996,336.
“Throughout the year amendments can be made to the general fund [estimated budget],” said Scott. “This would come as a result of revenues that were unanticipated.”
Mavis does not anticipate the same carryover for 2010.
“If we, and we talked about this back in March, continue to take a conservative approach, our carryover can be good for 2010,” he said.
“My goal, I’m hoping, is that we can get to almost close to where we were in carryover for 2008. Whether or not we will be able to meet that goal is yet to be determined. If we can get close to the $2.9 million, we will do really good,” said Scott.
Mavis and Scott agreed that the approach for 2009 was to conserve and prioritize.
“I’ve worked with all of the departments in the city and I’ve told them if they don’t save it now to be moved forward, then just be aware when go into 2010 their budgets aren’t going to funded the way they are expecting because the resources won’t be there,” said Scott. “We had a lot of good participation from our departments as to what things are needed and those that are not.”
Alhough no new employees are expected to be hired, laid off, or forced to take furlough days, Mavis said positions that must be filled will be filled as needed.
Mavis said the city was fortunate this year to do many projects, including the Gay Street project, Wooster Road and Vernonview water line projects, improvements to several brick streets, and building a restroom at Foundation Park.
Many of the projects bids came in well below estimated, Mavis said, allowing the city to save on overestimated funds.
“We were able to do those without cutting back [on project requirements] and a part of that was this year was a healthy year to bid projects,” said Mavis.
Several of the projects were funded from sources other than the general fund. Scott said these funds do play a part into the city’s budget, but that they are discretionary and restricted for specific purposes, and thus are not a part of the general fund.
Funds from the Tax Increment Financing district will be used to fund the hospital crossover road next year. A TIF is a specific district where city council places special taxing and where improvements will be made; funds generated from the TIF district are required to be spent within that district.
“We are confident we can do the hospital crossover road if the plans get done, but we are using the TIF dollars that we have been saving and not the general fund money for that project,” said Mavis.
2010 is not expected to be a large project year.
“We don’t have that many projects on the table to go, but for those projects we do have in place, those funds are already in place,” said Scott.
Mavis said the Coshocton Road project, not expected to begin until 2012, will be able to use funds saved through TIF since part of project is within the TIF district.
“We have those resources on hand and they are allocated for those types of improvements and the general fund is not going to have to share into it. It is a restricted fund — the money comes from that area so the money has to be spent in that area,” said Scott.
Funds used for the wastewater treatment plant project are not from the general fund; it uses funds from the increase in wastewater rates.
“The utility funds will enable us to do work at the wastewater treatment plant, which is a large project,” said Mavis. “We are doing about $155,000 worth of filter replacement for the water treatment plant right now; we estimated the project at $300,000 and it came out at $155,000.
“Usually during this time of year you see the payroll gets pretty thin due to things like overtime, having to bring extra help — seasonal help — but this year that hasn’t been the case,” he said.
This year has been different for other reasons as well. Last year, Mavis said, the city had to buy salt and hire extra seasonal help for the snow, but thus far this year that hasn’t been a problem.
“The equipment is in good shape for no major breakdowns for extended use, and we haven’t had overtime,” he said.