Denen talks 2020 fiscal budget

City in ‘good’ financial shape, according to city manager

By Jennifer Woods -

At Wednesday’s Washington Court House City Council meeting, two ordinances were placed on first reading regarding the city’s expenses for the 2020 fiscal year.

One ordinance has a list of appropriations showing a grand total of $47,844,765 while the other ordinance has a list of appropriations with a grand total of $2,917,880.

City Manager Joe Denen gave an explanation of the budget during the meeting.

Part of the budget is “fund 101” which has impacted the city’s budget for five years, according to Denen.

“The creation of fund 101 by the taxpayers has allowed the retirement of five property taxes and increased support for fire, police, street, street lighting and cemetery,” explained Denen in his budget proposal. “Further, fund 101 has created stability in the general fund. Simply, fund 101 allows the strengthening of local basic services in a fiscally responsible manner.”

A challenge for next year’s budget is that there will be 27 pays for hourly employees that are paid bi-weekly. Typically, there are only 26 pays in a year. Denen explained this means “pressure exists in the budget” to fund the extra pay period. This is part of the city’s general fund which Denen said “is personnel-heavy.”

“The 2020 budget also commits significant resources to paving and replacing durable equipment used by the service department,” said Denen. “Along with addressing the capital needs of the fire and police departments, these investments allow the city to continue to support the needs of citizens.”

In the prior budget, Denen explained there was “fiscal pressure” on the budget from construction projects such as Leesburg Avenue and Washington Avenue.

“With the completion or near completion of those two large street investments, resources are liberated for other pressing needs,” he said. “Next year we have the Waste Water Treatment project. You’ll have the Temple Street Bridge project, which in terms of expenses compared to Washington Avenue is considerably less.”

Another part of the budget for water, fund 520, is debt retirement which “allows considerable resources to be spent on addressing capital and/ or equipment needs.”

“The City of Washington Court House is proud that resources were carefully managed to allow this point to be reached,” said Denen. “Now these resources that were devoted to paying the debt that acquired the water system can be deployed to benefit the citizens of Washington Court House and allow for improvements to water infrastructures. We’ve been very careful to manage that money throughout the years so that we’d get to this point where you’ll have that money and you’ll be able to invest it in the system.”

“There are many things we need to do in the system,” he explained. “That has worked out exceptionally well for us. We’re incredibly pleased with that.”

Also part of the 2020 budget are proposals for additional funding for road paving.

“The last two years of unusually wet weather have encouraged the premature degradation of street pavement,” said Denen. “The 220 budget increases repayment funding to address this issue however, the increase in repayment funding will need to be sustained for at least three years.”

Denen also brought up the additional gas tax and how that could help considerably with the paving projects. He also explained that the cost of the projects could fluctuate or increase which could hurt how helpful the additional tax is.

“The fiscal position of the City of Washington Court House is good,” said Denen. “The administration collectively believes that the proposed budget funds the operations of the City of Washington Court House in an adequate manner.”

Near the end of his speech during the meeting, Denen spoke a little more in order to remind those present “that we don’t have the ability to spend more in resources than allowed. If we want to borrow money we have to deal with banks in the real world, and they want to know how they’re going to get paid back. We don’t have the ability just to print cash. So, we’re in very decent shape, we’re happy with that budget. In particular, it will go a long way in addressing some of the equipment needs we have in service, will supply more money for paving and march along with the project at the Waste Water Treatment Plant—which for us is a very large project.”

Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or on Twitter @JennMWoods.
City in ‘good’ financial shape, according to city manager

By Jennifer Woods