City braces for possible cuts

Despite the re-election of President Barack Obama and Gov. John Kasich being in the middle of his term, Wapakoneta Mayor Rodney Metz says he has heard little regarding financial help for cities and villages from the state and federal government except that Local Government Funds will continue to decrease.

With the federal deficit and federal debt likely to be addressed, he said fewer dollars are likely to flow to the states and local governments in the form of grants and the number of unfunded mandates are likely to grow.

“Obviously they are dealing with tighter budgets and less revenue so it will be interesting when they have to make their final decisions and how it will affect us,” Metz said in a telephone interview Sunday. “I know several programs that other cities have participated in and some programs that we had people looking at making a grant application for — so far those programs have not received any funding.

“I really don’t know what is going to happen and I have not received any concrete feedback,” the mayor said, “but they all say there is nothing there.”

In the past, the city has applied and received funds through the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to reconstruct several streets in the past including two sections of East Benton Street and Bellefontaine Street. East Auglaize Street is scheduled to be reconstructed in 2013, but reconstruction of a section of West Auglaize Street could be in jeopardy if state dollars dry up.

Safety-Service Director Bill Rains said he adheres to the philosophy that until the project starts there is always the danger the grant could be unfunded.

While the city is set to receive another round of Safe Routes to Schools money, the program is changing from a 100 percent grant to ODOT providing 80 percent and the local entity needing to match with 20 percent.

Unlike the village of Uniopolis, which voted on dissolving or surrendering its incorporation to the township and is suffering from cuts in Local Government Funds, Metz said Wapakoneta City Council Finance Committee members used a different approach in regard to the funds during the $5.4 million General Funds budget process.

“This past year, we did not budget those funds for any particular use because the funds have been reduced so much and since they continue to threaten to eliminate it completely we did not make it a significant part of the budget at all,” Metz said. “We knew we would receive some funds, so we put that money toward some of the smaller projects that we had and we are using those funds as supplemental money toward those projects.

“We did not count on those dollars to make any one single project happen,” the mayor said. “If those dollars are eliminated, it will have an impact on our budget, but when the city goes from the sum it was down to what it is now then losing those dollars will not be that significant. It used to be a big part of the budget, but over the past four years they have decreased it so much that it is no longer significant. It will dwindle to approximately one-fourth what it was.”

The city used to receive in excess of $400,000 in Local Government Funds, which dwindled to approximately $250,000 last year. Rains said they expect to receive $125,000 or less for 2013.

He anticipates Finance Committee members will use the same strategy with those dollars for the 2013 budget cycle, which they have started already. Wapakoneta City Council meets at 7:30 p.m. today with no new legislation to be considered for the second consecutive meeting.

Metz also said he believes municipal leaders will see changes in regard to retirement, health care and union contracts because of changes at the state level, but those changes are yet to be seen and no directives have been rumored at the state level.