(Times Bulletin/Lindsay McCoy)
BY LINDSAY MCCOY
Times Bulletin News Writer
VAN WERT - Van Wert City Council met in a special finance meeting Monday evening to discuss concerns over the certificate of resources and the future appropriations of the general fund. General fund balances currently stand at $5,662,713 in 2012, but the city of Van Wert has eaten up five percent of the reserve of the general fund.Auditor Martha Balyeat reported that in the year 2000 the general fund was in the negative. The state came in to help the city and form a plan and as a result 75 percent of certain salaries were pulled from four other funds instead of the general fund. Balyeat believes this was to be temporary, but in 2012 the practice is still being followed.
The city is now using up the money for capital and fringe benefits and have ran out of resources to pull from and have no plans for the future.
All of council agreed that council along with the city needs a statement or plan of action for this issue, something concrete. While 2013 looks secure, 2014 could be an issue.
"We have x dollars," said Balyeat. "What services can we get for that amount?" While it always hurts, one of the first items to be questioned is staffing. Police and fire staff are generally the first to be looked at as they hold 64 percent of funds. It would take the cutting of nearly 5 employees just to save $500,000 and that would only allow funds to break even.
"Right now, the budget is tight," said Mayor Don Farmer. "Communities aren't going to have all the services that they used to, and we can't cut without affecting people." Recently, all department heads have been very good at staying within their budget and many were even under their expected number. This budget also doesn't include any support for Main Street or the Airport.
Board member, Pete Weir, believes all departments should be involved on brainstorming an issue. There is still hope that some reimbursements may still be coming that were not noted in the certificate of resources for the upcoming year. An ordinance for a temporary budget is currently being prepared.
Members also discussed contract negotiations and the need for salary increases for city as well as fire and safety personnel. An ordinance is being prepared to raise salaries including those that have already reached their cut off level by two percent.
Balyeat also reported that at 75 percent through the 2012 year, while many funds have fluctuated up and down all funds have a positive balance.
Law Director John Hatcher is currently in discussion with the Chief of Police over the liability over people that are taken into custody. The jail has changed its policies and will not accept persons that first need medical attention. Due to this change, the city is being held liable for many of these charges. Discussion for this issue will continue to see what can be done.
Vantage Career Center Superintendent Stacie Kaufman was present at the meeting to thank council for their continued support and to show the school's appreciation as well as to invite them to the school's open house set for Feb. 25, at 5 p.m. Kaufman also asked members for their support of the Vantage levy which is to be voted on every five years. The Vantage levy will be on the upcoming ballot.
Safety Service Director Jay Fleming reported that the roof is about to be installed on the Jubilee concession stand. He is also currently in discussion with engineers about beginning ideas for rebuilding the Smiley Park concession stand.
"Sue Heppard does a fantastic job with the parks," said Parks and Recreation Representative Stuart Jewett. "The new concessions will be phenomenal and the parks are looking great. Sue truly does the work of three people currently." Current hopes are that the concession stands will be open by April 1, for the start of ball season.