General concerns: Line-by-line review by councilors, tax credit talk

Looking at a proposed budget with a diminishing general fund cash carryover, the new Wapakoneta City Council Finance Committee chair intends to examine the city’s budget line-by-line during the next week.

She also is open to a proposal made Thursday to reduce the income tax credit for people working outside the city.

Wapakoneta 3rd Ward Councilor and Finance Committee Chair Bonnie Wurst plans to review the general fund budget to find line items to reduce in the proposed expenditures for 2012 after a proposal showed the budget would diminish nearly all of $1.2 million in cash reserves.

“This committee needs to study if there is a way to increase revenue or decrease expenditures for the general fund,” Wurst told the Wapakoneta Daily News after Thursday’s Finance Committee meeting. “At this point in time, this budget is very tight and I intend to study the entire budget closely and then we will take some time to discuss what decisions have to be made to ensure its solvency.”

Wurst told city administrators she would have trouble recommending this budget until further review.

With a general fund cash carryover of $1.2 million and with

anticipated revenues totaling $4.26 million, she struggled with giving approval to a budget spending $5.4 million. Safety-Service Director Bill Rains explained the budget contains revenue estimated to be lower than expected and expenditures costing more than anticipated, leaving closer to $600,000 at the end of the year, but he said he understood Wurst’s concerns and would work with her on the line-by-line review.

To help close the gap, Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr., who is a member of the Finance Committee, suggested reducing the income tax credit for people who live in Wapakoneta but work outside the city. Currently, people only pay the income tax where they work and the city of Wapakoneta gives them credit for the any percentage up to 1 percent, but most municipalities are at 1.5 percent.

“I do not like giving a tax credit to people who work outside our community when their property is here 24 hours a day, seven days a week and we provide fire and police services to their property 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Finkelmeier said during Thursday’s meeting. “The trend is communities are backing away from giving a tax credit and in our case we give the full 1 percent tax credit so we receive no tax revenue for a person who lives in another municipality.

“This is a discussion for full council or at least this full committee to consider — sunsetting one-quarter (0.25 percent) of that credit and reassess and then we should consider sunsetting it all,” the councilor said. “How does giving away our tax revenue to a municipality where a person works help our fire department, how does it help our police department — it does not. It penalizes us when we already have one of the lowest income tax rates in the state and definitely in the area. I am not proposing an additional tax levy, but in my opinion it is an inequity that someone pays no income tax because they work in Celina, Lima, New Bremen or St. Marys. We are sacrificing revenue for no value.”

Wurst said she would consider the idea when 1st Ward Councilor Jim Neumeier, who was absent Thursday, could attend a meeting and discuss its advantages and disadvantages.

The proposed budget also was affected by potential hirings.

Wapakoneta Fire Chief Kendall Krites and Rains included the hiring of an additional firefighter for the Wapakoneta Fire Department, which should help with combatting overtime pay throughout the year and should result in a quicker response.

Krites explained this would enable four-man crews to respond immediately to a fire. Fire standards require men outside a working fire before two men can enter a structure. One man is not permitted to enter a burning building alone.

He said this would enable firefighters to search for possible victims sooner, too.

The move may improve the city’s fire rating which could reduce home insurance because of better coverage.

Krites and Rains said they believe much of the cost would be offset by reductions in overtime hours for the other firefighters. Rains explained he maintained the past levels of overtime in the budget to ensure enough money was appropriated and this number would become more exact in the future after data is collected.

Rains also said he and Wapakoneta Police Chief Russ Hunlock discussed hiring an additional dispatcher. They have operated with only four dispatchers and one administrative assistant and they need at least five dispatchers.

Rains said if the positions are not approved in this budget, he would make an appeal again in six months and again when the budget process for 2013 starts later this year.