The North Royalton City Council adopted the city’s 2019 budget at their December 4 meeting. Although Council has until March 31 to adopt the city’s budget, City Council has adopted it before year’s end over the past few years. The measure was unanimously adopted after three readings.
The 2019 budget has a total of just over $43 million, which is seen as a very lean budget. “I’m very conservative,” said North Royalton Finance Director, Eric Dean. “This budget is probably as bare bones as we have had in all the years I’ve been doing this,” said Council President Larry Antoskiewicz, who chairs the Council Finance Committee. Some of the budgeted expenses for 2019 include about $470,000 for rock salt; $325,000 for a new ambulance, $100,000 for bay floors for Station 1; four new police cruisers totaling $126,700; $30,000 for a new server at City Hall, $76,100 for traffic light repairs and $50,000 for a new phone system in the Police Department.
Ward 4 Councilman Paul Marnecheck, member of the Council Finance Committee, said “we are forecasting a 0.19% decrease in income tax revenue. It is a pretty conservative budget. From a tax revenue standpoint, 2017 was a high point for the City. We decided to be cautious for 2018 and will continue to be cautious for 2019. These are uncertain times and we are still feeling the State cuts to the Local Government Fund of about $900K/year since 2012 for a cumulative total of $5.8M. One thing to note is that according to our Finance Director, the City has not borrowed money since 2015. My feeling is that we are living within our means.”
In budget discussions that have taken place with Dean, City Council and Mayor Bob Stefanik, the issue of a potential slowing economy played into the decision making. “It’s very, very bare bones this year,” said Stefanik. “We’re, again, ultra conservative on the budget side. We have to prepare for a possible economic downturn. Hopefully it doesn’t happen, but if it does, we’ll be better prepared for the issue. You can’t un-spend what you already have spent.”
“The biggest factor is income tax that would effect us with a down turned economy,” said Dean. “We predicted slightly less for next year. We were down slightly for last year, but we determined that it was partially determined that many people payed their local taxes in 2017 and not in 2018. We just have to keep an eye on our income tax. It’s my experience that there’s usually a lag between the time the economy goes down to the decrease in income tax receipts.” For that reason, Dean said that if an economic downturn takes place in 2019, chances are the effects won’t be realized until the following year.
Stefanik recalls when he first took office in 2008, which was the start of the last recession. “We had to deal with furloughs and pay cuts for department heads back in 2008. We did nothing different than residents did with their own personal budgets.” Stefanik said he feels that the city is in better financial shape now. “We are better prepared than we were back at that time. Last time, it was the double whammy of the recession and state cuts for government funding. We’re hoping with the new governor, they may reinstate some of those cuts that they have done in the past, but we’re not planning on it,” said Stefanik.
The city does not have a “rainy day fund”, but it does have a Future Capital Fund, which has just under $2 million, according to Dean. Cable TV money goes in every year and fees for new developments, which, on average, equate to about $140,000. The city will also carry over $1.8 million from last year into this year, which is about 4% of the total budget. Of that, none is earmarked for expenditures at this time according to North Royalton Finance Director, Eric Dean.
Antoskiewicz said that the highlight of the budget is probably the amount that will be spent on the roads. “The last few years, we were playing catch-up with equipment and vehicles. Now it will be roads and infrastructure. We’re trying to make some headway there.” The projected street budget for 2019 is starting at about $1.2 million. More than half of that amount, about $650,000, will be used for the repaving of Rt. 82. The city usually starts the budget on the low side, then adjusts it when the tax collections come in.
Contributing Writer