Twinsburg's $39 million 2013 budget reflects recovering economy

by Conner Howard | reporter Published:

TWINSBURG -- The city will spend roughly $4 million more next year than in 2012, according to the 2013 budget, mainly due to necessary road and sewer maintenance that can't be put off any longer, Councilors say.

City Council was to address the 2013 spending plan at its Dec. 11 meeting.

More than $39 million is proposed for Twinsburg in 2013, compared to about $35 million budgeted in 2012. Several departments, including fire, police, public works and engineering, will receive incremental funding increases, with the fire department seeing a projected $3.1 million budget for 2013, compared to $2.9 million in 2012.

However, the largest portion of the appropriations increase can be found in the special revenue fund, or money intended for special-purpose projects like road and sewer repairs.

Finance Director Karen Howse said the city has been able to save money on planned 2013 special revenue projects by using government grants that reimburse money spent by the city on needed infrastructure maintenance.

"We've always been fortunate in that we've been receiving grants," Howse said. "As a result, it has reserved many of the special revenue funds. So in essence, what we expense out, we get back at least 80 percent of the money. That is what has allowed us to continue with the normalcy of special projects of street maintenance and construction."

Howse said the city is expecting to take in about $22 million in income tax revenue in 2013, similar to the 2012 figure, which was also around $22 million. The 2013 appropriations budget requires approval by City Council and submission to the Summit County Fiscal Office by Dec. 31.

While grants have helped maintain special revenue funding, officials say that's only a part of how Twinsburg has began to recover from the impact of the Chrysler Stamping Plant's closing in 2010. Howse said increasing the city's income tax from 2 percent to 2.25 percent in 2009 and temporarily freezing wages for city employees in 2010 helped keep the city afloat, and allowed for the proposed increases in 2013.

"With the Chrysler plant closing, we've been fortunate that the residents agreed to allow us to increase the quarter percent," Howse said. "As a result, we did not lose revenue. We were able to maintain."

About $13.9 million of the 2013 budget will go toward salaries, wages and benefits for city employees. City employees received a 3 percent wage increase in 2012, an increase Mayor Katherine Procop expects to continue in 2013, given Council approval.

City Councilor Sam Scaffide said it is important for the city to make the most of the current recovery, as the .25 percent income tax increase approved in 2009 will expire in 2013 unless put back on the ballot and voted into action. The conventional wisdom from some Councilors seems to be to let the quarter-percent hike expire.

"Just being able to recover from where we've been with the loss of Chrysler, I think that .25 percent income tax, the revenues we're getting out of that, I truly believe a lot of that money is covering the safety services requests," Scaffide said. "I think at this point, we're recovering and we're trying to play catch-up this year because most likely, that .25 percent is going to go away ... 2013 will be the last year that we'll have it. I'm hoping that we don't need to renew it. I hope that the economy continues to work its way up."

"We have been able to maintain a very minimal budget over the years [during] which that quarter percent was [approved]," Howse added. "We reduced our budget, we released a lot of contracts that we had before, we reduced our staffing through attrition and bringing in part-timers. There's a lot of things we did to help reduce our revenue expenses by cutting our expenses."

Scaffide added that when a city is operating on a short budget, it's still important to maintain roads and other assets.

"No matter what happens, when you're trying to operate a city, you've got to look at your infrastructure and try to keep all those things up," Scaffide said. "You can't just let it go. When you get that window of opportunity that maybe you can do a little bit, that's the time to do it."

Scaffide said that although much remains to be seen of the 2013 financial season, he feels the proposed appropriations budget contains many necessary expenses, including $1.18 million in appropriations for the Gleneagles Golf Course.

"I think that it was needed," Scaffide said of the budget. "It's a little aggressive, but … it's needed. There are things we have to take care of. A golf course is recreational, but you've got to remember, the golf course is also an asset to the city. We can't just let our assets go down the tubes."

While Scaffide said the proposed appropriations were somewhat aggressive, City Councilor Maureen Stauffer said she felt the overall scope of the budget was conservative.

"I think it's still a tight operation right now," Stauffer said. "I think we're fortunate with the grants that we've received to be able to do some projects that we didn't necessarily get to do (in previous years) but I do think we need to very careful with our spending."

City Councilor Bill Furey agreed, saying the proposed city budget has been "cut to the bare minimum" since the income tax was increased in 2009.

"We were extremely conservative on projects over the last three years," Furey said. "There's absolutely no fat in this budget whatsoever. It's been run that way since the city voted for the additional tax three years ago. If we need to continue the quarter percent increase, we'll have to go back to the voters, but I think we'll get by without it if we continue to spend money the way we are now and businesses continue to grow within the city."

Email: choward@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9423

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