Council sets sights on 2016 spending

By Jason Hawk -

Some interesting increases are inflating Amherst’s projected budget numbers for next year, city council learned Monday.

The finance committee took its first look this week at the interim budget for January to March and mayor David Taylor spoke on several big-dollar line items.

Among them are:

• The Ohio Department of Transportation is seeking to extract up to $80,000 more from Amherst for annual upkeep to Rt. 2.

The city has paid $2,000 per year since 1963 toward paving, mowing, and salting along the stretch of state highway within its limits. The state says that must change and Amherst must pay “what it really owes,” Taylor said.

He put aside $30,000 in the budget for that cost.

Taylor will travel Tuesday to Ashland to renegotiate the long-standing contract with ODOT District 3 reps.

The split the parties will settle on remains to be seen. Whatever the numbers, councilman Joe Miller called the move “another way to balance the state budget on the backs of cities.”

“You can look at it that way or you can look at it as since 1963 we’ve been getting away with murder,” replied the mayor. Though he agrees with Miller in principle, he said cities must play by the state’s rules.

• An additional $80,000 for fire department salaries. When fire chief Wayne Northeim retires at the end of the year, he will take buyout payments instead of a lump sum, which means the city will be paying two chiefs through the early part of 2016.

• Up to $14,000 for health insurance. Taylor declines coverage but said his successor may wish to use it.

• An estimated $190,000 for winter road salt, which represents a hefty bump from last year.

The numbers are “guestimates,” Taylor said. Auditor David Kukucka said much of the interim budget will roll into the permanent budget council will adopt in February.

The interim will get another vote this Monday in a regular council session. It is marked with emergency status.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk