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As job titles change, so do Columbiana finances

December 8, 2013
By KATIE SCHWENDEMAN - Staff Writer ( , Morning Journal News

COLUMBIANA - Some internal shuffling has caused the city to spend more than what was appropriated for some funds this year.

Finance Director Mike Harold told council this week an ordinance amending appropriations for several funds was needed to make up for those changes.

The ordinance was put before council for a first reading, but council members balked after seeing the figures. The amendment was to add:

- $495,855 to the general fund

- $5,000 to the street fund

- $37,750 to the cemetery fund

- $24,500 to the water fund

- $1.1 million to the electric fund

- $25,000 to the police pension fund

- $662,500 to the income tax fund

- $600,000 to the self-funded health insurance fund

- $1,100 to the Firestone Cemetery trust fund

- $11.29 to the bond retirement fund and $2,311 to the special assessment bond retirement fund.

Harold said the main reason the funds changed was because of the many personnel changes made over the year, like the hiring of a new manager and filling his former position as wastewater superintendent.

"It snowballed after that a lot of guys flip-flopped from another department," he said of positions posted internally mostly among street, water and sewer departments.

The funding increases reflect what is needed to cover wages and benefits, he said.

The moves were good for some funds which went under appropriations after losing an employee, while other funds went over due to the additional wages, he added.

Councilman Bryan Blakeman asked if the extra money in the other funds could be used to cover the loss in others, but Harold said funds cannot be moved that way.

Blakeman then asked if the funds could be shifted to the general fund and then moved over into the other funds, but Harold wasn't comfortable doing that either.

General fund money can be used to supplement other funds; however, money in other funds is usually restricted from going into the general fund, according to state law.

As for the electric fund, Harold said that increase is the result of the cost of power per kilowatt-hour going up a penny-and-a-half for roughly 900,000 kilowatts.

In late 2012 the city budgeted $7.9 million for the electric fund and Harold said the fund was at $1.42 million as of Nov. 21. The city purchases its power through AMP Ohio and adjusts rates on a monthly basis based on that cost and overhead.

Blakeman asked Harold for more detailed information and voted against the first reading of the ordinance when he was not satisfied with his response.

"I need a more clear explanation," he said.

Councilman James King also had questions about the appropriations and voted against after some hesitation. With four others in favor, a first reading was given.

When approached after the meeting, Harold told the newspaper some of the personnel changes were the promotion of Jesse Wilson from street employee to street superintendent, replacing Willard as sewer superintendent with Brian Dicken of the street department, and replacing that full-time street position with a part-time park employee.

The city also hired an electrician to replace Doug Sturgeon, who took over as electric superintendent after Jim Sturgeon retired, and a new meter reader was hired.

Harold said the city lost a full-time dispatcher at the police department and a utility clerk, who quit. The dispatcher position was filled with part-timers.

He could not immediately provide how those changes would affect the city's overall budget.

In 2012 the budget was set for $33.9 million for this year and included the $14 million cost of the new water treatment plant. That project did not get started this year, however, so that money will be put into the 2014 budget, he said.

The project was halted due to a delay in federal government funding and Willard said a start-date has been targeted for Feb. 1.

A bid opening is set for 11 a.m. Dec. 9 in Council Chambers



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