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Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Celina forecasts carryover

By William Kincaid
CELINA - Celina's general fund used to pay for day-to-day operations of the city, including the police and fire departments, is in good shape and poised to have a carryover of $1.9 million next year.
Just a few years ago, city officials scrambled to avert a projected $1.05 million deficit by initiating temporary layoffs and getting an additional half-percent income tax approved.
Now they must decide what is an ideal carryover amount and evaluate the city's debt-to-cash reserve ratio.
Celina Mayor Jeff Hazel on Monday night said city funds are no longer anemic and stressed that an ample cash reserve is critical to allow the city to pursue capital projects without taking on additional debt through loans.
The city is not hoarding money, he insisted.
City auditor Betty Strawn presented a general fund summary for the month of July to council members that shows revenue collections up from last year and expenditures down from last year.
The city has collected $4.5 million in total revenue, or 66.7 percent of what was anticipated for the year, and spent $3.7 million, or 56.4 percent of what was anticipated for the year.
At the same time last year, the city had collected $4.4 million in revenue and spent $4.28 million.
Strawn said the anticipated carryover will allow city officials to reduce debt.
Hazel and safety service director Tom Hitchcock earlier this year estimated the city's long-term, aggregate debt at $23.029 million with $4.84 million being used this year to pay down that debt. The two men agreed that the aggregate debt was manageable but indicative of a government that must curtail its future reliance on borrowing.
Hazel on Monday night said city officials must create programs that allow the city to pay for infrastructure projects with cash, such as to fix some of the city's crumbling streets, instead of taking out loans.
Some council members asked what an ideal general fund carryover amount should be, to which no specific number or approximate estimate was provided.
Hazel said a possible carryover of $1.93 million is not inappropriate and again called for an evaluation of the city's debt-to-reserve ratio.
Council members on Monday night heeded Strawn's advice and took action to reduce some of the city's debt on the Main Street reconstruction project.
After suspending the rules and doing away with the three required readings, council member unanimously passed an ordinance to pay $424,000 toward the $1.35 million debt on the project. The city recently was refunded that money from the Ohio Department of Transportation after the project costs came in at $1.25 million instead of $1.69 million.
Strawn said the city will not be assessed a prepayment penalty for reducing the principal of its debt.
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