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Published: Wednesday, 12/10/2008

Sylvania '09 budget digs into reserves

BY ANGIE SCHMITT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The city of Sylvania's 2009 preliminary budget calls for drawing $1.8 million from the city's reserves to offset stagnant revenues.

The city's finance department unveiled the first draft of a $12.1 million 2009 general fund budget for City Council last week.

The budget projects income and real estate tax revenues will remain stable. But the initial draft doesn't call for curtailing spending proportionately.

City officials have recommended the difference be drawn from the city's $29 million in reserves, much of which is stored in the city's capital improvements budget.

"We have saved some during the stronger years," Mayor Craig Stough said. "We should begin to use those dollars."

So far this year, income tax revenues have increased at a healthy rate of about 3 percent, city officials report. But given the grim financial forecast, finance officials are being cautious.

"We have taken a very conservative view," Mr. Stough said. "Our 2008 income tax receipts are holding up. But I don't know that we can count on that for next year."

Finance Director Scott Smith said the city's spending growth is widely distributed and reflects normal increases in departmental operating costs. The budget will not be finalized until negotiations with the police department and other bargaining units are complete. He said he expects that to happen early next year.

In the meantime, city officials are considering a temporary budget that will take the city through the first quarter.

Excluding contractual issues, the preliminary 2009 budget projects police protection will cost an additional $240,860, or about 7 percent more than last year, bringing the total from $3.53 million to $3.76 million. The increased spending reflects expected increases in overtime expenses, health-care costs, and other expenses, Mr. Smith said.

Garbage collection is projected to cost an additional $104,100, or about an additional 15 percent, from $678,550 to $782,650. The increase is the result of price increases by the company Sylvania employs for trash collection, Mr. Smith said.

Police communication, meanwhile, is predicted to see a $20,000 increase, or about 3 percent, from $646,195 to $666,205.

City councilmen will have their chance to propose changes to the budget into the first quarter of next year. Both the temporary and 2009 budgets were referred to council's finance committee.

Councilman Mark Luetke said he thinks the plan to use reserve funds as a stopgap for revenue shortcomings needs more discussion.

"These are tough times and I think our government needs to acknowledge that these are tough times," he said.

A vote on the temporary budget is expected Monday.

Contact Angie Schmitt at:

aschmitt@theblade.com

or 419-724-6104.



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