Written by HAROLD BROWN Sentinel City Editor
Thursday, 15 November 2012 09:48
Filing three of four police vacancies, one of six vacancies in the public works department and restoring one heavy trash pickup are among the recommendations in Bowling Green's proposed 2013 budget.
City council's Finance Committee plans to begin its review of the budget today at 4 p.m. and will meet again Friday at 4 p.m. if today's session doesn't get the job done. The three-member Finance Committee has often been joined by most council members for the budget review.
Tuesday evening a joint work session of council and the Board of Public Utilities reviewed the proposed 2013 utility budget and the proposed 2013 water and sewer capital improvements budget for 2013. The BPU is expected to take action on those budgets at its Nov. 26 meeting.
Council needs to have the city and utility budgets in place by the end of the year.
The proposed 2013 combined city and utility budget is $58,119,987, a decrease of 6.9 percent from 2012, mostly because of fewer capital improvement projects. The 2012 capital improvement budget included a lot of the cost of the North Main Street project.
The utility budget projects a slightly higher cost of electricity and includes a scheduled water rate adjustment for wholesale customers in January and a third year of sewer rate adjustments scheduled for October.
Director of Utilities Brian O'Connell said retail customers in the city would see no change in their water rates, after a phased three-year adjustment was completed this year. Wholesale customers will see the fourth of a phased five-year increase in 2013. Retail sewer customers will see a 30-cent per month increase in the service charge plus about a five percent hike based on usage.
"We're still very competitive on rates, especially electric," BPU chairperson Bill Culbertson said.
The city administration is proposing a one percent wage increase effective July 8, 2013 for all non-union employees and for union employees at their top step. Among other items in the executive summary of the budget are:
• A projection for city income tax revenue growth of 2.74 percent in 2013. The growth rate is 3.01 percent this year.
• A plan to offset a four percent increase in medical insurance premiums by transferring costs to employees via higher co-pay and deductible limits.
• Increased fees and charges for services, such as ambulance rates. Council has already adopted higher ambulance rates effective Dec.1.
• Refinance bonds to reduce overall interest costs.
• Fund one less code enforcement officer in the Planning Department.
• Add $7,500 to the solid waste management budget for a second curbside heavy trash pickup. The lone pickup in recent years has been immediately after spring commencement at Bowling Green State University. The date for the second collection has not been determined.
• Spend $9,000 for eight new police radar units, replacing equipment that is 18 years old.
• Earmark $175,000 for improvements to the traffic signal at Fairview Avenue and West Poe Road.
• Moving forward with the a rebuild of the Poe-Haskins road intersection. Local money would come from the street repair fund, but 80 percent of the project would be covered by the state's Transportation Improvement Program. BG would spend $100,000 on engineering, $50,000 for land acquisition and $200,000 toward construction.
• Proposes splitting the cost of three administrative secretaries and one account clerk with utility funds.
The utility cost split continues a trend started a few years ago when wages and benefits for the mayor, municipal administrator, assistant municipal administrator, finance director and personnel director were split with utilities. The reason cited was that all do work related to utility operations.
"I was behind that idea," former mayor John Quinn, now a BPU member, said. "But be careful about piling it up. It puts the costs on the ratepayers," Quinn said.
"If we start increasing rates for more salaries, then it becomes a concern," BPU member John Mekus said.