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Downtown road repairs on the way
Fund balance funding irks former councilman

by Mary Keck

September 05, 2012

Clarkston residents will hit fewer bumps while driving downtown because the city approved a bid of $35,280.50 from Asphalt Specialists Inc. (ASI) for road repairs. While the council was able to fund fixing cracks and holes in the roads, money for such projects may not be so easy to come by in the long term.

Seventeen spots on Depot Road and other streets have been highlighted with spray paint around town. ASI will cut out the broken sections of asphalt and replace them, said City Manager Dennis Ritter. Ritter assures no open sections of asphalt will be left over night while the repairs are underway.

In addition to replacing asphalt, ASI will fill cracks in the road as a preventative measure. "Filling cracks prolongs the life of the asphalt," said Ritter. He believes the repairs will be completed by mid-October.

During the city's August 27 meeting, the cost and source of funds for the repairs became a subject of contention. "I would like to know, as a taxpayer, where this money is coming from since it's not in the budget anywhere, how you can authorize the payment," said Former Councilman Cory Johnston. "I'm just surprised that this is being considered in the lowest tax revenue year the city has had in memory," Johnston said.

Despite Johnston's protestations, the Council voted unanimously to pay for the repairs from the city's fund balance, which is approximately $220,000 and made up of surplus monies the city has accumulated over the years.

"I am concerned about using the fund balance for this, but I think it is justified by the need to do the repairs and the current level of the fund balance," said Councilman and Finance Committee member Richard Bisio.

While Bisio feels using the city's fund balance to offset the cost for road repairs is acceptable in this instance, he said he will "continue to advocate better long-range budgeting." He believes the city hasn't done sufficient long-term financial planning "to address what is expected to be a continuing (although smaller) decrease in property tax revenue in the coming years."

From Bisio's point of view, this road repair expenditure "shows the city is spending more than its income." While Bisio thinks dipping into the city's accumulated surpluses is justified in this case, "that can only work while there is a sufficient fund balance to cover operating deficits," he stated. "We cannot continue to depend indefinitely on funding expenses from the fund balance," Bisio said.

Another expenditure before the City Council is a cost for new dump trucks, and it will be discussed during a special meeting on September 6 at 7 p.m. in the Village Hall.