Possible solutions to Newcomerstown's budget shortfalls were discussed at last Monday's Newcomerstown Financial Planning and Supervision Commission meeting.
The group, which consists of Newcomerstown residents Dee Stocker, Jeff Staggs and Gary Baker, as well as Mayor Jim Friel and village councilmember Heather Stein-Wells, are charged with finding a recovery plan to aide the village in correcting deficits in certain funds. They are assisted in this by representatives from the State Auditor's Office and State Treasurer's Office, as well as help from the Ohio Office of Budget and Management.
The main fund that has the largest deficit is the cemetery fund which ended 2012 at a negative $167,219.82 balance. However, other funds such as the park, police pension, sewage, and water well field funds are also being examined closely during this fiscal emergency in the village. The village was listed in "fiscal emergency" in October 2012 by the State Auditor.
One solution discussed at the meeting was placing an operating tax levy on an upcoming ballot. Last November, Newcomerstown residents turned down a proposed 1.5-mill additional tax levy for maintaining and operating village cemeteries by some 200 votes. That levy would have generated approximately $70,000 a year.
Instead, Mayor Friel suggested placing an operating tax levy on the ballot that would go for the cemetery and park funds, as well as general operations of the village.
Councilmember Stein-Wells said the village is taking a pro-active approach of trying to correct some problems by cutting the cemetery department down from two full-time employees and season help, down to one employee that works for both the cemetery and street departments. By doing this, they combined the two departments and saved the village money.
"We've seen a dramatic decrease in spending at the cemetery," she said because of those actions taken by council.
She said council repealed the Newcomerstown Recreation Board at a recent council meeting because the board was spending more than they were budgeted by the village. By doing so, council takes back the control of the park's finances.
Council just recently moved approximately $27,000 from the general fund to the park fund so that the fund would not be in a deficit come the start of the pool season. But, at council's April 15th meeting, council was unsure if the village would be able to open the pool due to repairs and safety issues at the pool.
"Pools are great and great for the community, but they are also expensive to operate," said Sharon Hanrahan, Financial Planning Commission administrator.
She said all those ideas and items that have been completed to help in the process of recovery all need to be included in the plan. That recovery plan must be submitted to council and approved by July 2.
Another area that needs to be addressed is the use of purchase orders in the village and to make sure that these items are approved before money is spent.
"It sounds like you have come a long way," Hanrahan said. "At end of the day, I'm just here to hold the meeting but you are the ones that live here and run the village."
But, she said council must approve the proposed plan for recovery, then it returns to the financial planning and supervision commission for approval, and then a five-year financial forecast must be submitted.
The group's next meeting is set for Wednesday, May 22 at 10 a.m. at the Churches of Christ in Christian Union in Newcomerstown.
Then, the recovery plan will be presented to the commission on Monday, June 24 at noon at the church.
All meetings are open to the public and a public participation portion is included on the agenda.