The City of Milford Finance Commission held public hearings on Tuesday, June 16 and Wednesday, June 17 to discuss the 2014-15 budget for the city. The budget was approved at the June 23 City Council meeting and takes effect on July 1, 2014.
The budget presented was balanced, with proposed expenditures equaling estimated expenses totaling $4,431,470, which was approximately $34,000 higher than the 2013-14 budget. Jeff Portmann, Finance Director for the city went through the budget page by page allowing council and commission members to make comments and ask questions about the requests from various departments. When it came to the police budget, council members asked about training expenses and replacement of computer equipment, while City Manager Richard Carmean explained that the negotiations with the police union had not been finalized yet.
“If there are any changes council wants to make to the economic ends of the contract, we would have to revisit that with the union,” Mr. Carmean explained. “Our next meeting is not until July 7 and there will probably be some back and forth there before we bring it to council for consideration.” The decision was made to revisit the police contract after approval of the budget.
Councilman Skip Pikus, who is the chairman of the Finance Committee, noted that building permit fees are down considerably, with only $42,000 collected as of April. The year before, council estimated collection of $80,000, while Mr. Portmann projected only $60,000 for 2014-15.
“You do see a lot of activity in May and June, but it is down quite a bit,” Mr. Portmann said. “It is possible we will not reach $60,000 but history says we should.” Councilman Pikus asked if the new water tower would generate revenue, and Mr. Carmean said that he was currently shopping for rentals for the tower currently. However, because the tower would not be completed until next year, the revenue stream may not be available until the 2015-16 budget.
One question from Councilman Dirk Gleysteen was related to School Resource Officers requested by Milford School District. Mr. Gleysteen noted that $300,000 was included in the budget for three SROs, but that the school had originally requested three additional officers and provided payment of $300,000. They had since reduced the number requested to two additional officers beyond what was provided by the city.
“I don’t think we should refund that $100,000 right now because they are not providing service to the citizens as far as maintaining the old Middle School,” Councilman Gleysteen said. “I would be against refunding that fee until such time as they handle that issue.” Councilman Pikus asked if the city had been approached about refunding the $100,000, and Mr. Carmean said that they had been. He also felt the city was contractually obligated to return the funds. However, the city had expended money for training for the third officer, and Mr. Carmean explained that he was in the process of determining how much the training had cost in order to be sure the correct amount was refunded.
Under the Code Enforcement and Administration portion of the budget, Mayor Bryan Shupe questioned the addition of a second code enforcement officer. He said that rental taxes had been raised a few years ago for the purpose of adding another officer, yet it did not appear in the budget.
“I would like at other expenses that can be reduced because that was the reason we increased that tax,” Mayor Shupe said. “I have been approached by a lot of people about this, even those I would not have thought would have an issue with it.” Several other council members agreed that they, too, had questions from citizens about the addition of the officer. Mr. Portmann said that salary, benefits and other items, such as a vehicle, would cost the city approximately $84,000 for an additional code enforcement officer.
“I’ve given this some thought, and I think we can make some personnel shifts,” Mr. Carmean said. “I want to talk to them about it, but I do think we can resolve it by moving some people around. Councilman Doug Morrow said that he thought the lack of an additional code enforcement officer may have led to additional problems, such as trash issues, costing the City more money.
Several agencies in Milford also requested funding from the city. Downtown Milford, Inc. was approved for a three year contract of $40,000 per year, which was the same amount included in the budget for 2013-14. Carlisle Fire Company’s request dropped from $151,000 to $140,000. The budget included $26,000 for the Milford Museum, but a request had been received for $42,000, which was $16,000 more than the previous year. Councilman Pikus read a letter from the museum commissioners stating that the reason for the increase was due to rising utility costs and to help cover the salary of the Executive Director.
“The letter said that the Executive Director salary had solely been funded by a capital campaign,” Councilman Pikus said. “However, the death of a major contributor has reduced that amount significantly. That was Richard Johnson.” Mayor Shupe and Councilman James Starling both asked if it there was money available. Mr. Portmann explained that because the budget was balanced, the city would have to cut elsewhere in order to find the $16,000. Council members decided to table the matter and revisit it should additional funds be found at a later time.