City commission passes 2017 budget

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — Gallipolis City Commissioners passed the city’s operating budget Tuesday evening with a general fund expenditure estimate totaling $2,982,107.79.

City Commission is allotted 20,748.50, municipal court $344,967.48, city manager $56,760, city auditor and treasurer $120,368.37, taxation office $133,145, city solicitor$154, 201, historic review board $150, code enforcement $92,147.20, police, $1,207,754. 10, fire safety $202,441.58, city building $93,617.22, streets $64,000, recreation $3,315.45, parks $69,906.80, general capital improvements $6,876.59, health and safety $20,375, miscellaneous $139,840.12, transfers and advances $246,093.18 and county auditor’s deductions at $5,400.

The city’s debt service for various loans and leases totals at $660,408.99.

The city’s general fund expenditures in 2012 was $3,73400705. In 2014, it was $3,202,020.22. In 2016, it was $2,927,934.15.

City commissioners have cited concerns with the state gradually cutting back on local government funding with the elimination of legislation such as estate tax and implementing new laws that would change the way income tax was collected.

Officials anticipate the city will bring in its lowest revenues in 2017 at roughly $3.008 million if something does not soon change with revenue generation. Currently, with municipal income taxes, the city brought in roughly $1.5 million from individuals working in Gallipolis for the 2016 year. That number has remained arguably steady with a total of $1.59 million being tallied in 2011. The city estimates its general fund revenue will be $3.008 million for 2017.

In previous meetings, the city has said it is able to enact a property tax and income tax in order to collect revenue. It is not able to enact a sales tax as per Ohio law. City commissioners in the past have felt that a property tax would be too heavy upon the public so they moved forward with income tax efforts.

The city officials, including the city manager and auditor, have cut pay in order to accommodate budget concerns.

“Our police department is working at half staff,” said City Commissioner Steven Wallis at the budget’s first reading. “Doing more work than they have in the past. That’s not the only department doing that. It’s across the board. We’re at the lowest staff our employees have ever been to my knowledge ever in my lifetime and I would say everyone’s lifetime that’s in this room. We are asking more from them (workers) and they are giving it to us. It’s the job of the commission to get the revenues in that is necessary for the city to operate. We’re stuck with this avenue.”

The city intends to place a one percent income tax increase before voters in the November election with the ballot wording “A majority affirmative vote is necessary for passage. Shall the Ordinance providing for a one percent (1%) increase on income for public safety operations and capital expenses … be passed?” Capital expenses was struck from the language of previous passage attempts in order to focus solely on police and fire safety needs. The current city income tax is already one percent. The issue’s passage would bump that to two percent.

The tax issue has previously failed twice. Gallipolis residents voted down the municipal income one percent tax increase, 598 to 303, during the May primary last year, and again, 725 to 652, during the 2016 November election.

City officials have openly admitted in commission meetings that if the levy were to pass their hope would be that new revenue brought in by the tax would be funneled toward safety services and take pressure off of the general fund for other departments. That said, they also said they may need to continue pulling from the general fund for policing services as oftentimes inmate and jailing expenses for crimes committed in the city could not be predicted with great accuracy.

Criticisms from business owners in the area were concerned with previous ballot language and a desire to see money used efficiently in city services, which they felt had not been achieved in past years.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright