By TIMOTHY COX
MENDON — Village officials approved 2004 budget appropriations
that would leave the town with only $6,000 in its general fund
contingency account following an estimated $53,000 carry-over
balance to end this year.
That carry-over will have to fund more than half of the town’s
general fund budget for next year as finances grow increasingly
tight. Even some of the town’s utilities funds also are
hurting, causing officials to ponder an increase in electricity
rates for next year.
Village officials could have reduced employee wages in the appropriations
plan by 3 percent to give themselves a bigger cushion, but opted
against doing so. Village council members had drawn up the spending
plan with 3 percent raises in mind, however, the town’s
Board of Public Affairs had recommended no raises.
Council members talked about delaying action on pay raises until
they have a better grip on next year’s financial picture.
Others suggested a lower 1 percent or 2 percent pay hike.
But council President Roy Davis succeeded in his argument that
the employees deserved full pay raises.
“I don’t believe in balancing the books on the backs
of your employees,” Davis said.
Council members passed the appropriations ordinance as an emergency
although they delayed action on the proposed electric rate increase.
Village officials will be keeping a close eye on other accounts
throughout next year. The $60,000 street fund shows a contingency
of just over $4,000 and is relying on an estimated carry-over
of $20,000 this year to make ends meet. The water fund shows
a balance of $5,000 by the end of 2004 while the sewer budget
will be just $114 in the black.
The electric fund shows a year-end balance of $4,500 if there
is no contingency spending. That fund has been steadily declining
in recent years, mostly due to the addition of a new full-time
village employee a couple of years ago, Clerk-Treasurer Kristina
Board of Public Affairs President Karl Duff said members of
that group recommended doubling the monthly customer service
charge to $7 coupled with a slight rate increase. The overall
effect would be about a 7 percent increase on electric bills,
officials said. The town has not bumped electricity rates since
1984, they said.
“There is nothing wrong with raising the price of your
product when other prices and costs are rising,” council
member Lloyd Boyer said.
Davis said he would like to see a full accounting of the electric
fund’s woes before deciding whether rates should be increased.
In other, slightly better financial news, village officials
learned that outsourcing its staff and mosquito spraying equipment
to a couple of Van Wert County towns last summer paid off. Street
Commissioner Randy Severns told council about the news, but
did so quietly.
“I don’t want to talk about these numbers out loud
so they’re not misinterpreted,” Severns said before
passing a single sheet of paper around the council table.
After the meeting, The Daily Standard learned the venture hatched
by Mayor Ron Griesdorn earned more than $2,500 last summer.
That was enough to pay for all the outside spraying and equipment
and Mendon’s entire 2003 spraying program with a couple
of hundred dollars left over.
Griesdorn said he didn’t set up the service to be a money-making
venture but said he is pleased with how it has worked out.
In other business Tuesday, council members:
• Approved a new contract that runs through April 1, 2005,
with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office for police protection.
Council members set aside $20,200 to spend on police protection
• Delayed action on approving a lease agreement with Bright.net
to allow the Internet service provider to install an antenna
on the town’s water tower. The two sides were close to
a deal many months ago but it fell through. The five-year contract
would pay the town $1,080 annually. Village officials want an
escape clause added into the deal for their benefit and want
Bright.net to pick up utilities costs for the antenna.
• Passed final reading of a resolution setting aside $225
for employee Christmas gifts.