Source: Sherman Publications

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Budget OK’d: No tax hike, no road work

by CJ Carnacchio

June 01, 2011

Good news for Oxford Village residents, their July 1 property tax bills will not contain a millage increase.

Council last week voted 4-1 to approve a balanced budget for 2011-12 totaling $6,768,563, supported by the same tax rate of 10.62 mills, which equals $10.62 for every $1,000 of a property's taxable value.

"We worked really hard as a council not to raise the millage because we've been asked for two years not to do so," said village President Teri Stiles. "We've worked really hard to keep our budget balanced. Hopefully, next year won't be as bad."

Councilman Tom Benner agreed.

"This council has spent many, many hours going over the budget, trying not to do away with any services and keep the budget the same, so we would not have to ask the public for more money. And we accomplished that," he said.

The biggest components of the overall village budget, which takes effect July 1, are the $1.88 million general fund, a $633,909 police budget, a $282,954 dispatch budget, a $577,528 Downtown Development Authority operating budget, a $1.02 million sewer fund and a $1.097 million water fund.

The village lowered its fund balance for the upcoming fiscal year from 12 to 10 percent, which equals approximately $220,000.

A fund balance is basically a government's savings account that can be used to pay for things like unforeseen expenses and special projects or to offset revenue losses.

For instance, the village is planning to use $202,049 of its current fund balance – estimated to be $421,708 (18.8 percent) – to support the upcoming 2011-12 budget.

Councilman Tony Albensi cast the lone vote against the budget.

"I am pleased to hear a motion that does not raise taxes, but I'm going to vote no on this budget because I just don't think it goes far enough," he explained. "I don't think that we've looked long-term enough or . . . made the right cuts or enough cuts."

"I am pleased that the millage rate stays the same. I would have been happier if it went down, but I understand," Albensi added.

Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth expressed her concern that no road projects were budgeted or scheduled for the upcoming fiscal year.

"There's no money in the budget for any road improvements," she said. "At this rate, there's never going to be any."

She suggested increasing the tax rate by 0.10 mill and setting the money aside for road projects. Such an increase would generate $9,700 for the village.

"We still have a portion of Dennison (St.) that hasn't been done, a portion of Moyer (St.) that hasn't been done," Helmuth said. "These are the old projects that we haven't gotten to and the new projects are all coming up."

"I just think if we keep ignoring it, we're going to be in really bad shape in about five years," Helmuth noted.

Her suggestion received no support.

"I personally would rather bump the fund balance down than bump the millage up," said Councilman Dave Bailey.

Helmuth responded by saying, "I would agree if I thought next year was going to be better and we'd be able to bump (the fund balance) back up, but I don't see it getting better next year."

Councilman Tom Benner and township Supervisor Bill Dunn, who spoke as a village resident, also disagreed with Helmuth's millage suggestion.

"$9,000 is not going to do part of a sidewalk, let alone any part of a street," Benner said. "As much as I'd like to see streets done and water lines put in and improved, and curbs and gutters, I just do not see it this year.

"We worked hours and hours and hours on this budget. I brought up the streets two or three different times – it never went anywhere and I don't think now is the time to start talking about a tenth of a mill for streets."

"I would be totally against this because the next council will just take that tenth (of a mill) and spend it somewhere else," Dunn said. "If it was a dedicated millage where you couldn't touch it, I may consider it. But just to bump it up and say you're going to save and use it for (roads), I'm not going for that."