The city of Bowling Green is looking to move “steady forward” with the proposed 2022 budget.
Council’s finance committee held a review of the budget Tuesday.
“Presenting this budget is important to me because it provides an opportunity to communicate priorities,” said Mayor Mike Aspacher during his comments at the meeting. “I believe that this budget demonstrates our understanding of our most basic responsibilities as civic leaders and provides measured funding for our strategic vision for the city.”
The proposed 2022 non-utility budget includes appropriations totaling nearly $87 million; including the utility budget, the amount to be appropriated is almost $176 million. In her presentation, Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter noted that, when interdepartmental transfers are taken into account, the budget totals approximately $146 million.
Tretter noted that the theme of her budget presentation this year was “steady forward.”
“This year, as we were in our in-between time of budget books and presentation, the word that kept coming to us was ‘steady,’” she said. “And we were very pleased with ‘steady.’” However, she said the team that was working on the budget wanted another word that additionally captured the budget, and they arrived at “forward.”
“There are elements of this budget that continue to move the city forward in a meaningful” and productive way, she said.
“As they mayor mentioned in his introduction,” Tretter said, “the 2022 budget fulfills the core responsibilities of the city of Bowling Green government and allocates funding for strategic initiatives. We consider this budget as a ‘steady forward’ fiscal plan.”
Tretter provided background from the difficulties of 2020, and the formulation of the 2021 budget, noting that the 2021 budget “took the downwardly-adjusted ’20 anticipated income tax revenues (down 7.4% when the budget was presented) and projected at 5% increase in income tax. To be clear: income tax was projected to be down by 7.4% in 2020. The ’21 budget assumed that the income tax would come in 5% higher than that downwardly-adjusted 2020 amount – meaning, 2021 income tax revenue was projected to be less than what had originally been projected for 2020.
“Income tax receipts in ’21 have been higher than projected in the 2021 budget,” Tretter continued. “This relieves some of the pressure created by the ’20 adjustments and, with higher income tax receipts in ’21, the ’22 budget has improved stability over last year’s budget. Because we are utilizing the higher income tax amounts from ’21 as the comparison base for ’22, we are projecting an additional 2% increase for ’22” in income tax receipts.
Among the financial influences on the budget, Tretter discussed issues of deferred maintenance on city infrastructure and facilities. While construction on the new City Administration Building is slated to start after the first of the year, she said “we need to develop a strategy to plan for, fund, and execute needed maintenance on city facilities and infrastructure.”
Tretter took specific note of the Court Street fire station and the Bowling Green Police Division building, noting that studies of those buildings “shined a light on significant concerns in these facilities. Community safety is a high priority and the facilities that house our safety service employees and serve the public need to be safe, efficient and effective for a modern safety department… The struggle to adequately fund building maintenance was noticeable in the formulation of this budget.
The 2022 budget includes modest investments in some deferred maintenance items for city buildings and makes great strides in the area of infrastructure investment, she said.
Tretter also discussed the issue of the increasing cost of technology, noting that cybersecurity attacks that have occurred in other places “are of high concern to the city of Bowling Green… and bolstering our system is a pressing priority.
“There are numerous increases in the budget related to technology,” Tretter continued, “ranging from contracts for service, needed security upgrades, hardware, software, and storage for data (this has become a particularly large need in the Police Division as body-worn cameras were launched and the quality and number of cameras in the downtown installed).”
She also noted that “a core responsibility and focus in this budget is to maintain current municipal activities… Providing excellent services is a goal of this organization.”
A focal point of discussion were allocations of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. “This is a major factor in our budget this year,” said Tretter. The city is to receive over $7.3 million in total from ARPA and received about $3.6 million this year.
“We recognize this is a significant amount of money and seek to balance its role in revenue replacement with opportunity for meaningful community improvement,” Tretter said.
ARPA funding in the proposed 2022 budget includes the much-discussed three-year, $3 million residential paving program. Tretter noted that the plan “will allow the city to make significant headway on its residential paving program, enhance neighborhoods, and improve accessibility by installing ADA curb ramps.” She acknowledged the “downside” of construction that will result from the program, but “perhaps, try to challenge yourself to think of that orange barrel as a sign of good things happening in BG.”
Among other ARPA-funded items proposed in the budget are $100,000 to fund additional housing revitalization efforts above the city’s HUD threshold; $350,000 for equipment for, and to facilitate a transition to, the MARCS radio system for the city’s safety forces; $250,000 for improvements at City Park, including paving the park loop and creating a pedestrian path, lighting improvements and the installation of security cameras; and $100,000 for site improvements in connection with an inclusive playground at Carter Park.
“These recommendations do not impede the planned community discussions about ARP,” Tretter said, “but allow for the city to continue to move forward on previously established and communicated community goals which will continue to enhance Bowling Green.”
“I’m pleased to see a number of important items addressed” in the budget, said Finance Committee Chair Greg Robinette. He said he planned to introduce the budget for council’s consideration at its Dec. 6 meeting.
Additional budget highlights include:
• The creation of a Park Facility Capitalization Fund to place monies in reserve for future purchases. An initial allocation of $50,000 is to be put into the fund.
• Funding for a bicycle treatment survey conducted by the Bowling Green State University Master of Public Administration Program.
• $40,000 for the 50/50 sidewalk replacement program. Tretter also suggested that council might consider this item for additional ARPA funding.
• Additional paving work on East Wooster from Campbell Hill Road to the CSX railroad tracks.
• Funding for the city’s microgrant program.
• Additional security cameras in the downtown.
• Funds to replace a dump truck for the Parks and Recreation Department, and to replace a side load refuse-recycling truck.
• Funding for an additional position in the Planning Department. Tretter noted that “the details of this position are currently undetermined. As we’ve mentioned to council, we are conducting a strategic review of enforcement activities.”