Athens 2011 Budget Reflecting Hard Times in Ohio
“We projected [the budget] right on track for the most part,” said City Auditor Kathy Hecht in response to the end of the year totals for 2011. “The issue is that everything costs more.”
With inflation and the delicate condition of the economy, the city of Athens has had to rely more on revenue generated within the city to cover existing costs.
“There are 30 different revenue streams,” said Deputy Auditor Ray Hazlett. “We get most of our money from the local and income taxes along with the general fund.”
The revenue streams that make the most money for the city each year come from aspects such as rental permits, parking meters and tickets, court costs and fines, and property taxes.
“We received about $800,000 in revenue from property taxes in 2011 along with another $300,000 to $350,000 from parking meters,” said Hecht.
The main source of expenditures for the 2011 year was within the city’s own offices.
“As with most businesses, our main expense is personnel which makes up 80 percent of expenses,” said Hecht.
The report also highlighted the top city employee earners for 2011 based on their yearly pay with overtime. Fire and police department employees make up 18 out of 20 of the top earners.
“The police and fire departments are among the top earners because of the extra hours they put in,” said Hazlett. “Especially during the fall and spring quarters.”
The issue of overtime versus hiring more employees is an issue within the city.
“City employees that work overtime get paid time and a half,” said Hecht. “But doing this is still cheaper than hiring another employee year-round with benefits. When we hire another employee the city has to pay another $30,000 on top of what they already earn in benefits.”
During 2011 the city also paid $281,185.92 to 118 employees in longevity checks: $54,182.16 to the police department and $68,096.28 for the fire department.
“The longevity checks were set up by council as an incentive many years ago,” said Hecht. “It was difficult to get local people to work for local government before that.”
Longevity checks work by paying employees an extra one percent of their paycheck each year. The longer they work for the city, the more the percentage increases until it reaches a cap of six percent.
City Council recently mandated that as of the first of 2012, longevity checks will no longer be given to non-union workers. Now they must negotiate separately for changes in their income. Union workers will now receive their longevity within their annual pay versus a separate check.
The outlook for 2012 is also on the minds of all within the auditor’s office with the projection averaging about $200,000 over budget.
“We have no extra money at this point in the year,” said Hecht. “I’m a little bit nervous. We need about a 2-2.5 percent revenue increase to keep up with expenses. But as long as people keep their jobs around Athens, we will keep making revenue.”