Van Wert Mayor Don Farmer speaks at Thursday’s City Council Finance Committee meeting. (Times Bulletin/Lindsay McCoy)
BY LINDSAY MCCOY
Times Bulletin News Writer
VAN WERT - The Van Wert City Council Finance Committee met in a unique Thursday evening session to discuss the need for a fiscal plan for 2012-2013. In previous council meetings, City Auditor Martha Balyeat has requested a plan many times and several committee members felt that a concrete plan has been delayed longer than necessary.
Van Wert Mayor Don Farmer began the meeting with several recommendations that could be put in play in the future such as reducing city expenditures, instituting a hiring freeze, delaying promotions, shifting expenditures to other parties, creating or increasing service fees, and reducing or eliminating services.Farmer said he does not recommend raising taxes and that option only seen as a last resort. He also believes this is not the time to change the budget and hopes council can come to a mutual agreement on permanent budget projections once the end of the year figures are released. Farmer wants to see the temporary budget passed and a meeting scheduled in January to present a tangible plan.
"We have gone through this before, and I don't want to hit the panic button," noted Farmer.
Balyeat stated that she was hoping to see plans with actual concepts and scenarios ready to be presented and would like to see this plan extended to 2016. The permanent budget is set to be passed in early April, leaving council until February 21 to come up with a plan and begin the first reading of the proposal. A meeting has been set for Feb. 11, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the plan that will be put together over the next couple of months by the city administration.
Balyeat also brought up the issue over an additional police and fire pension payment of $90,000. This city has been given the option to defer the payment into thirds until 2015. With $150,000 budgeted for salaries and Police salaries reduced by nearly $60,000 due to a retired officer who has yet to be replaced, Balyeat believes that the extra funds should be used to pay off the balance immediately.
Police Chief Joel Hammond, along with other members of council, disagreed with paying the entire amount upfront, noting that it limits cash flow within the system by an extra $60,000 the first year.
"We have survived this before, but why not use this advantage with all of these unknowns that we are facing," pointed out Hammond.
Farmer agreed and questioned why the city would not want to apply for the deferment. As a conclusion, council noted that it is free to apply and can always choose to pay the full amount up front anyway, making it beneficial to having the extra cash moving within the budget in case it is ever needed.
Hammond looked at financial projections gone awry in 2002 to compare situations. He shared that in 2002 the situation was do or die, but that is not the case in 2012 as the city, especially police and fire, have shown tremendous fiscal discipline. Hammond believes that records show the city does have a plan in place, and we need to look to history to learn from our past mistakes.
Safety-Service Director Jay Fleming completed the discussion. "We will do what is right even when council believes it is not timely."
Balyeat also discussed a few general appropriations and fund transfers. She will be raising appropriations for the Job Ready Site and for the Parks Capital Improvement fund for work being done at Smiley Park.