Washington Court House City Council met for a special meeting this week to allow time to pass legislation pertaining to the city’s 2021 budget before the new year.
According to a letter City Manager Joe Denen wrote to council in relation to the 2021 budget proposal, “while the Covid emergency is far from over, the cash position of the City of Washington Court House is stronger than before the virus. Thankfully, the economic impacts of the virus did not result in worst case economic outcomes. However, the negative economic consequences of the virus should not be dismissed. Nevertheless, the strength shown by the local economy in the face of historic headwinds equally should not be ignored. To that end, the 2021 budget seeks to satisfy the need to replace durable equipment, provides increased resources for paving and maintains healthy investment in the staffing needs of our community.”
The legislation in question is an ordinance that was placed on second reading during the meeting. The first time legislation is seen and approved by council it is placed on a first reading and the second time on a second reading. Adoption of resolutions can occur once they have been placed on the second reading. Adoption of ordinances can occur once they have been placed on the third reading.
In the final meeting of council for 2020, scheduled for Dec. 21, the ordinance can be placed on third reading and then be passed. If passed, the proposed budget will be accepted.
The following numbers will be included in the budget if passed by council:
The general fund will have a total budget of $7,674,455 in 2021 which is more than the total general fund budget of $7,173,055 for this year.
Income tax levy fund (fund 101)
The total budget provided through income taxes for next year will be $2,050,700 which is slightly less than a total of $2,054,200 for 2020.
“2021 is the sixth year that Fund 101 will exercise a positive impact upon the budget of the City of Washington Court House. The taxpayer’s desire to create Fund 101 also resulted in the retirement of five property tax levies along with increased fiscal resources for fire, police, street, street lighting and cemetery. This in turn contributes to greater stability in the General Fund. Simply, Fund 101 permits the strengthening of core services and a reinforcement of the fiscal position of our community,” explained Denen.
Street construction, maintenance, repair, etc.
The budget for this category comes from motor vehicle licenses fees, state gas tax, workers comp. rebates, etc. for a total of $874,500 for next year — which is more than the total of $867,500 for this year.
The budget for state highway improvement projects is a total of $64,500 for next year which is slightly less than the total budget of $65,700 for 2020.
The cemetery budget is a total of $109,700 for next year which is less than the budget of $118,200 for this year.
The budget for the economic development fund comes from a portion of the city income tax. The total available for the budget for next year is $83,000 which is slightly less than $84,000 for this year.
Sewer and water
The budget for sewer is a total of $26,543,554 for next year compared to $30,537,054 for 2020.
The budget for water is a total of $3,048,198 for next year compared to $3,047,198 for this year.
The budget for bridge maintenance is $9,500 for 2021 which was the same for this year.
“The enormous investment in rehabilitating the Wastewater Treatment Plant commenced in 2019, that proceeded in 2020 is continued in 2021. Advancement of the Wastewater Treatment Plant project will satisfy the need of our community to protect human health and the environment. Further, investment in wastewater capacity and in particular wet weather flows limits entanglements with environmental enforcement agencies and supports industrial development,” explained Denen. “The repayment rate of funds loaned by the General Fund to the Water Fund to support aggressive investment in the water system is increased. Strength in the Water Fund permits the increased rate of repayment while supporting investment in the water system with an excellent cash balance in the Water Fund.”
Several miscellaneous funds not mentioned above were part of the proposal. The grand total of all funds for the 2021 city budget is $$44,233,414 compared to a grand total of $47,734,191 for 2020.
“Our current fiscal position, while not invulnerable, is several orders of magnitude better than the fiscal position of our community ten years ago and nearly unrecognizably better than the fiscal position of fifteen years or twenty-years past. This fortunate position has been achieved by the consistent support of the taxpayer, fiscal prudence, dedication to investing in staff and expenditure on plant and equipment. Fiscal stability is achieved over many years. Radical financial action rarely yields desired results. Like most matters of substance in life, no shortcuts or snake oil exists,” explained Denen.
One other ordinance was placed on second reading during the meeting. If passed, it would amend an ordinance from 2019 to provide supplemental appropriations for current expenses and other expenditures of the city.
Five ordinances were placed on third reading and were then adopted.
Two of those ordinances allow two alleys to be vacated. As previously reported and according to www.codepublishing.com, vacating an alley means the public is letting go of, or “vacating,” the public interest in a property.
One alley is between 501 and 505 S. Elm St. which is located behind Ranchers Roast Beef. The second alley is between 213 and 219 Draper St. which is a short section of alley that passes between the Vapors store and the building that once housed a hair salon across from Kroger, according to Washington Court House Building and Zoning Inspector Rod Bryant.
By vacating the alleys, the public no longer has a right to use those sections of the alley.
Two of the ordinances allow Denen to abate public nuisances at 710 Clinton Ave. and 422 Broadway St. As previously reported, a nuisance is caused within a city if a property is dangerous, in a state of disrepair, is uninhabitable, decreases local property value or decreases the enjoyment of the lives of surrounding neighbors. An abatement of nuisance is a way for the city to handle the situation while charging the owner of the property.
The final ordinance allows a prior piece of legislation to be amended. The legislation provides supplemental appropriations for current expenses and expenditures of the city.
A new ordinance was heard and placed on first reading. If passed, the purpose of the ordinance is to acknowledge the Fayette County Emergency Management Agency’s county-wide “All Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan.”
Fayette County Emergency Management Agency Director Melissa Havens explained, “This plan has been around for about 20 years and gets revised every 5 years. Once revised, it must be adopted by all the jurisdictions in order for them to continue to qualify for disaster assistance should a disaster occur (so it’s actually a federal requirement for them to participate in the update process, and then adopt the final plan).”
Washington Court House City Council meetings are located in the second floor council chambers of the City Administration Building, 105 N. Main Street. The meetings are streamed on the YouTube channel “City of Washington Court House, Ohio” at www.youtube.com/channel/UCRwMxUBn8XIQTjnSvFaGDgA. The final meeting is planned for Dec. 21 at 9:30 a.m.
Reach journalist Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.