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Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

$6 million budget gets OK

By Timothy Cox
Celina City Council members on Monday gave final approval to a general fund budget just under $6 million.
The annual appropriations ordinance was approved following months of extensive review. Council members have met more than half a dozen times since late last year, plodding through the huge spending plan line-by-line. A temporary budget was in place to cover spending through the first couple of months of the year.
The $5.975 million general fund budget exceeds the original $5.9 spending limit council had imposed on themselves.
"We're $75,000 off our goal, but it's really close," Safety-Service Director Jeff Hazel said during a recent number-crunching session.
Councilman Rick Bachelor noted the extra spending amounts to about 1.5 percent of the total budget.
Proposed spending for 2007 exceeds estimated revenue by about $500,000. But a healthy $1.3 million carry-over balance from 2006 will prevent the city from going into the red. Last year's revenue came in more than $400,000 over original estimates, so higher revenue this year could keep the city from spending the $1.3 million balance.
The city's 1 percent income tax generates an estimated $2.7 million in annual revenue and is the single largest source of income for the city. A kilowatt-hour tax charged on electricity usage generates $575,000, and local government funding funneled through the county brings in $463,299. Numerous other taxes and fees bring in lesser amounts of money.
The biggest expenses for the city are the two round-the-clock operations - police and fire service. The police department has a budget of $1.1 million while the fire department has a budget of $917,000 for this year.
The $5.975 in anticipated spending is 15.7 percent more than what was actually spent in 2006.
Beyond the general fund, which represents locally generated tax revenue, the budget also includes $2.3 million in special revenue funds. Those line items include mostly grants and other money coming into the city from outside sources. Almost all of the money is earmarked for special projects.
The total budget, which includes the water, sewer and electric accounts, tops $36 million. A large portion of that includes utilities. For example, the city buys about $11.5 million worth of electric power every year, and then sells it to residential and commercial customers for slightly more.
In other business Monday, council members approved participation in an Ohio EPA-sponsored loan program. The city plans to tap the low-interest loan fund to help pay for up to $3.5 million in additions and improvements at the city water plant.
The biggest addition is the planned construction of a granular activated carbon (GAC) treatment facility. The process is expected to curb the city's long-running problems with trihalomethanes in the water.
The city is under EPA findings and orders to fix the situation by November of this year. City officials have said they likely will miss the deadline by at least a few weeks.
Water rates eventually will be raised to cover the costs of paying down the EPA loan.
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