A $37.5 million budget proposal for 2016 landed Monday in front of the Amherst finance committee. It must be approved by the end of March.
Mayor Mark Costilow explained the numbers, saying he’s only earmarked 85 percent of the city’s available cash for spending this year.
In a long Q&A session, mostly spurred by councilmen Chuck Winiarski and Joe Miller, officials pored over increases and decreases in cash set aside for the operation of the city’s police, fire, utilities, streets, sewer, and other departments.
It revealed a long list of plans for 2016, including:
• A possible update to the Anna Schmauch Memorial Pool building at Maude Neiding Park to make it more efficient, especially in the area of concessions and ticketing.
• Speeding up replacement of radio-read water meters. A lot of old analogue meters citywide are slow; new meters can be read in a couple of days rather than a couple of weeks.
• An increase in police part-time wages. The Amherst police department is using part-time officers more and just hired two in December.
• A plan to connect Amherst city building with a high-speed fiber optic network for file-sharing and a new telephone system, along with other technology upgrades.
• The purchase of two new police cruisers for $120,000. This is a contractual requirement.
• Purchase of a new salt truck (estimated cost of $150,000) and a digger truck (estimated cost of $220,000) to replace old models.
• Hiring outside counsel to assist in union negotiations this year.
• A probable raise for a part-time legal assistant at Oberlin Municipal Court who has had no raise in seven years.
• Tuck-pointing and bell tower restoration work at city hall. “If we don’t give it some tender loving care, it’s going to fall apart at some point,” Costilow said.
• An aggressive street program with work on Rt. 58, Cooper Foster Park Road, and resurfacing of about 10 residential streets.
• A $9,000 increase for Amherst Office on Aging part-time salaries, tucked away in case council finds a way to give the office more hours.
• Money set aside for a small sewer fix or upgrade project if needed.
• Creation of a sign at the San Springs building on Park Avenue. Costilow said people don’t know that the city tax department, auditor’s office, building department, and utilities office are located there.
One item that was scaled back since the passage of an interim budget this fall was a $30,000 account for upkeep of Rt. 2. It was slashed down to just $2,000.
Since the 1960s, Amherst has had a contract with the Ohio Department of Transportation, agreeing to pay a $2,000 local share for plowing, paving, and mowing along the stretch of highway inside the city limits.
Last year, ODOT tried to pull out of that contract, saying Amherst should pay $100,000 or more per year for service to Rt. 2. Costilow and law director Tony Pecora said Monday they are still fighting the state on that issue.
The mayor said he has yet to see any document indicating the five-decade-old contact is invalid. “I want to stick to that $2,000 agreement that we have,” he said.
The Amherst finance committee sent the budget proposal to the floor of council in a unanimous vote.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Mayor Mark Costilow explains his 2016 budget proposal page-by-page, outlining where money has been moved to cover projects and contingencies.