An annual general fund budget of nearly $9.7 million for 2017 was approved by city council members Monday.
The total budget, which includes Oberlin Municipal Light and Power Municipal System money and the income tax capital improvement fund, is about $36.2 million. Council has until the end of March to make final budget adjustments.
The general fund budget is an approximately $300,000 increase over this year’s budget, or four percent higher.
Estimated expenditures are $10.4 million for 2017. The deficit will be eliminated through Oberlin’s nearly $8.3 million carryover surplus.
Finance director Sal Talarico said his estimates are conservative. He expects the city will spend less than $10.4 million and collect more in fees, interest income, and income and property taxes than $9.7 million leaving the surplus intact.
“In order to run these calculations, I have to assume we collect the lower amount and spend the higher amount,” he said. “Tax collections should be slightly higher and we’re not going to spend everything we’ve budgeted. We never do.”
OMLPS’ average electricity rates increase about 9.6 percent from last year, according to Talarico’s Nov. 18 memo to council.
The hike is due to higher wholesale power costs from the operation of hydroelectric facilities by American Municipal Power, the city’s provider, and increased costs of operating the Oberlin plant.
Water rates will increase three percent. Wastewater rates will increase one percent.
Personnel costs for the 110-member city workforce make up about 62 percent of general fund spending. Health care costs are expected to rise about 4.5 percent.
The memo said Oberlin’s participation in a group health care plan with other cities and a lower amount of claims, plus less severe claims, will decrease long-term costs.
Major spending projects include:
• Repaving parts of East College, Morgan and North Pleasant streets.
• Replacement of a portion of the North Pleasant water main.
• Replacement of an electrical line and switch station at OMLPS and continuation of the utility’s LED streetlight program.
• Two new cruisers for the police department and stun guns for all officers who don’t already have them.
• A new multi-purpose truck for the fire department as well as automatic external defibrillators, and new communications and water rescue equipment.
• Improvements to the entrance to Westwood Cemetery and a replacement excavator.
Talarico also said $70,000 has been set aside to pay a public relations company to better promote Oberlin. Council could approve hiring the company early next year.
The company’s main efforts will be promoting economic development and encouraging OMLPS customers to contribute rebates from the sale of pollution offsets, known as Renewable Energy Credits, to the utility’s Sustainable Reserve Program.
The goal of the approximately $800,000 program is reducing costs, pollution, and climate change primarily through municipal infrastructure improvements as well as enhancing current efficiency programs for businesses and homes.
“We’d like that firm to help us educate the residents as to what the program’s for, how the dollars will be used, and the immense benefit that will come from donating the dollars back,” Talarico said.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.