Financial Planning and Supervision meets, approves Recovery Plan
By Matt Echelberry
The Financial Planning and Supervision Commission met on Dec. 19 to formally approve the updated Financial Recovery Plan.
Financial Supervisor Belinda Miller gave a brief report of the plan. Revenue for property taxes and income taxes mostly stayed the same, and modest increases were projected in appropriations—but there was little fluctuation overall. Also, contractual services are projected to have increases of 3–10 percent over the next five years.
Miller said there are still good carry-overs in the water, electric and sewer funds, but cautioned the city to watch those balances and review rates annually to determine if rate increases are needed. She said there needs to be enough of an inflationary increase so the revenue remains more than expenditures in those funds.
With the Electric Fund, Miller noted that purchase of power costs are built into the forecast. She said there has been “a lot of misinterpretation” in recent months regarding those costs. However, Galion assumes no risk in terms of its sources for power, including Prairie State. Construction of the plant is finished, along with all other power suppliers, and the power portfolio for the city is balanced with some renewable sources of energy included.
One additional employee for the Police and Fire departments was built into the plan. During some City Council meetings, there has been discussion of utilizing part-time employees for those departments as an alternative. Miller stated that there are both advantages and disadvantages to consider in regards to part-time personnel, such as pensions and training costs.
Debt repayments to the Freese Fund are set to be concluded in 2015; the city will then be able to use money in that account for what it was intended for, namely the upkeep of the parks.
The Commission then approved a motion to approve the Financial Recovery Plan.
Lastly, Miller announced there was a briefing at the State Auditor’s office the day before, regarding Galion’s fiscal emergency status. She said there are some issues that still need to be addressed, mainly the establishment written policies related to finances. Since the city went into fiscal emergency in 2004, day-to-day business had been the highest priority. Now that the major issues have been resolved, the focus can move to policy setting.
She predicts Galion could be removed from the status late in 2013, two years earlier than originally estimated. However, the transition to a statutory government may also affect the process due to the change in leadership and associated costs.
Miller then commented that the City of Galion employees have done a “tremendous job” in getting the city out of debt. Galion had the largest deficit of any municipality in Ohio history, but is not the city to be in fiscal emergency for the longest length of time.
The Financial Planning and Supervision Committee’s next meeting was set for Jan. 23 at 3 p.m., at the Municipal Building.