City starts budget process

This is the last budget process for one Wapakoneta City Council member — and he offered some advice to his eventual successor.
Councilor-at-large Wilbur Wells, who serves as chair of the Finance Committee, reviewed the 2011 city expense report Tuesday with fellow committee members — 1st Ward Councilor Jim Neumeier and 3rd Ward Councilor Bonnie Wurst — and they started the process in crafting the proposed 2012 city budget.
“I would tell the next chair to think of the city’s money as their own, be as tight and frugal with the city’s money as you would with your own household budget,” said Wells, who did not seek re-election after 14 years in office and 10 years as Finance Committee chair. “You have to make sure you don’t squander any money or overspend.
“You have to approach the budget conservatively — you simply cannot spend more than the city generates in revenues,” he said. “You always have to have a little bit sitting in reserve in case something happens.”
He also advised to start with safety services — police, fire and rescue — when setting the general fund budget and then move to other more fluid expenses such as street projects.
This year the general fund budget started with a $2.1 million balance with $3.3 million in new revenues. Expenses through October totaled $4.2 million with expected expenses totaling at least $380,640.
Wells, an accountant with Cargill in Sidney, leaves one of the most important committees. 4th Ward Councilor Dan Graf is moving to Wells’ seat on council as a councilor-at-large, while newcomer Chad Doll is the new 4th Ward councilor.
Council President Steve Henderson has yet to release his councilor assignments to new committees. He is expected to make the announcement in the coming weeks.
During Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting, Wells first reviewed the city’s expense report, which showed revenues and expenses through October and expected expenses through the end of year, with Neumeier and Wurst.
Despite careful attention devoted to a few specific funds, Wells said he is encouraged by the financial standing of the city.
“Overall, the city financially is in great shape,” Wells told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “There are some funds that are tight and then there are some funds which are very fit and sound, but overall I think financially the city is in great shape.”
He noted he is encouraged by the general fund debts being retired in 2013, which will free additional money for other city projects. Paying off the general fund’s debts was a task Wells wanted to see done during his term in office. Most of the debt is from the reconstruction of Auglaize Street through the downtown region in the late 1980s.
The three-month process of developing the 2012 city budget starts in earnest next week.
Wells scheduled the Finance Committee to meet at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 to start the review of the proposed 2012 budget. They intend to start with the Recreation Department budget.
The budget must be finalized and passed by city council prior to April 1.