ELYRIA — A no-frills budget was presented Monday night to Elyria City Council members, giving them a glimpse at what 2014 expenses will look like for the coming year.
This will not be the fiscal year police officers and firefighters are hired, departments outfitted with new equipment and roads are paved.
Mayor Holly Brinda said, “We worked with our department heads on this budget, but there was not a lot of wiggle room to debate.”
The proposed budget largely mirrors last year’s budget with inflationary increases.
“This budget represents an overall decrease of nearly 9 percent in the general fund and severely limits capital expenditures,” Brinda said. “You will see that this proposed budget has very, very limited capital items with no capital allotted within the general fund.”
The city will use $210,000 in the police levy fund, which is the result of the 0.25 percentage point permanent income tax levy passed in 1999, to purchase equipment.
The administration vetoed most requests by department heads for major repairs and purchases, and this year’s budget leaves a number of positions open — four from departments funded through the general fund and nine and a half from other enterprise funds.
Brinda said the uncertainty of the next 18 to 24 months, compounded by the expected expiration of federal grants for both the Police and Fire departments, makes it unwise to think of filling vacancies.
Finance Director Ted Pileski said the estimated revenue for the general fund is a little more than $30 million. The 2014 budget, which Finance Committee members voted unanimously to pass, is appropriated right up to that limit.
Should the city need additional cash, Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said City Council would have to change the budget as there is no so-called rainy day fund the city can dip into for an emergency.
“It hasn’t been that way for some time,” she said. “We are squeezing every dime we can from every account. People say, ‘Do more with less.’ Well, we are doing that, and then some. I look at every purchase order, every contract and every possible way to save money.”
The city has more than $15 million in needs projected over the next five years to keep up with wear-and-tear on city property and equipment. It was a figure that cause Councilman Jack Baird, R-at large, to verbalize something that has been known for years — the city needs to seriously think about finding a way to increase its revenue and attempt a tax increase.
“It’s becoming more and more obvious to me that we have to do something about our revenue,” Baird said. “We have to look seriously at our finances because we are just crumbling away.”
This was said after Fire Chief Rich Benton outlined the need for a new pumper truck, generator for Fire Station No. 4 and repairs to the city’s three fire stations totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Joe Strohsack, who runs the Central Maintenance Garage, said the city’s mechanics are performing miracles daily to keep the city’s fleet of aging vehicles and equipment running.
“Sometimes you have to spend money to make money,” he said. “The amount of money we are spending on the maintenance of vehicles is astronomical. We have police cruisers with 170,000 miles on them. Our snow plows may look OK going down the road, but when you get one of them up in the air, you see that they have taken a beating over the years.”