Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Village Council President: On a healthy village budget

I would like to explain some aspects of our Village budget. Most important is to communicate that the Village of Yellow Springs is in fiscally good shape. We have a 2010 end of year balance which is 34 % of our yearly budget. In light of standard municipal practice and in comparison to other communities, this is a healthy fund. While it is fun to see the end of year balance go up and up, socking away a lot of savings was not the reason the levy was put in place. Restoring a healthy fund and then addressing deferred maintenance was. And Village Council and Staff have been true to what was promised.

Regarding the infrastructure of water, sewer and electric systems; these systems should be and are maintained with the user fees we pay. They are not supported by taxes. Also, we have garnered almost $2 million in grant moneys for the wastewater treatment plant upgrade which is in progress.

Our Village Manager has completed a capital improvement plan of our water system, and we are looking ahead, developing shovel ready plans for an upgrade with the hope of capturing another grant. AMP, our electric consortium, deemed our electric system in good condition two years ago.

The Village General Fund is where our wage and property taxes go. Estate taxes also go into the General Fund. The primary Village infrastructure this fund pays for are streets, parks and the pool, the library building and the Bryan Center. It also pays for police and administration.

The largest item in our general fund is the police department. Last year, we budgeted 40% of the general fund for the police. Having our own police department is a huge and appreciated service of the Village. This is why it is important to take the advice of former Council President Tony Bent, who recommended we take a close look at this large part of our General Fund budget. By making comparisons to other communities of our size, we may be able to find ways to reduce costs and make this service more sustainable. Because the Village has not scrutinized this budget for many years this is a fiscally wise step to take at this time.

The second largest expenditure is care for our streets. This year we have budgeted $700,000 for street maintenance and repairs. We are spending $50,000 for the economic development coordinator we have hired, and the Village Council, manager and planning staff also spend a significant amount of time working on economic development activities.

Of a general fund budget of $3.6 million, $50,000 is budgeted this year for the Greenspace Fund. This money which does such important work, comes from estate taxes. Some of us view the ecologically sensitive Jacoby Greenbelt as the village's green infrastructure and I think this is an accurate way of understanding its importance. That we do not have sprawl development at the edges of our community, like so many communities, one need only look to development behind the Fairfield Mall to see what a nightmare it can be, is a huge strength for us.

Yellow Springs is in a league by itself with an intact downtown which has made it possible for us to meet many of our needs locally. It is a great part of the reason that we are a regional destination. Farmland being farmed productively at our borders is another positive for our local economy. To continue to argue about this small amount of funding and to not recognize the importance of this preservation work, seems to me an unfortunate focus at an area of disagreement which keeps us from working together where there is full agreement; support for development within current borders.

While this is not an issue of the Village Budget, the hope for growth brings to mind that at least 40 acres of developable land in and near the village is owned by the Village. When planning for the growth that many believe would be in our best interests, it would make sense for the Village Government and Villagers to take the lead by making plans for the thoughtful use of land owned by us collectively.

$10,000 has been budgeted for the Human Relations Commission to support its work on race and youth, in support of neighborhood block parties, and in activities and discussions to strengthen the police/ community relationship. The volunteer work of this Commission speaks to important quality of life and community building issues. In the past year, the HRC supported a workshop for youth leadership attended by half white and half youth of color, which was supported by Chief Grote and High School Principal John Gudgel. This positive and powerful work has continued throughout the year.

These are some of the highlights regarding the Village Budget, which might be of interest to citizens. I hope this is helpful for those who find our municipal budget a bit complicated and difficult to understand.

Judith Hempfling, President of the Yellow Springs Village Council

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the Police Department Budget should be left alone. The department has done an excellent job in its patroling and case load. The statement of "why fix it if it is not broken" is so true in this case. Lets stand back and let them do their job!