Beacon Journal staff writer
Though the Akron City Council approved a temporary budget for the first three months of 2011 Monday, many unknowns remain about the city's budget for next year.
City leaders are concerned about whether John Kasich, who will be sworn in as governor in January along with the new Republican-controlled legislature, will eliminate or severely cut the local government fund to help bridge an $8 billion state budget gap. This provides Akron with about $12 million a year.
Akron will enter state conciliation with its police union in the next week. This prolonged and ugly contract dispute must be settled by the end of the year. The outcome will affect the city's 2011 budget either positively or negatively.
On top of this, no one knows whether the economy will improve, which makes it difficult to project what will happen with the city's income taxes. City officials are hoping income taxes, which have been down for three years in a row, will be up slightly next year.
''Nobody knows what next year will bring,'' said Finance Director Diane Miller-Dawson.
The council approved a temporary budget, extending from Jan. 1 to March 31, for about $128.6 million. This is the same as the city's actual first quarter budget for this year, said Councilwoman Tina Merlitti, who chairs the finance committee.
Akron normally adopts a temporary budget and then approves a budget for the remainder of the year by March 31.
Budget hearings are expected to begin in February.
Miller-Dawson said she has budget requests from about half of the city's departments.
Other cities, counties and libraries also are concerned about whether Kasich and the legislature will get rid of or slash the local government fund. Miller-Dawson said the rumor is that they plan to do away with the fund as of July 1 of next year.
''Hopefully, nothing will happen,'' she said. ''They will start talking and realize how important it is for local governments to receive that money.''
Cities already have seen a cut in the amount they receive from the local government fund. Akron's funding was down by 2.68 percent as of the end of July, according to the city's most recent available financial reports.
As of the end of November, Akron's income taxes also were down about $1.7 million from last year, according to the city's financial reports.
Miller-Dawson expects income taxes to be down overall for the year by 1.75 to 2 percent, which is slightly better than the 3 percent she projected.
The city balanced this year's budget through furloughs, employees going without raises, concessions approved by the five unions and spending cuts.
In other business, the council approved expansion plans for Rockynol Retirement Community in West Akron. The nursing home plans to add a two-story addition with 20 rooms and a 2,700-square-foot community center with a chapel and common areas to its 1150 W. Market St. campus.
The project, expected to cost about $5 million, will be done in two phases, with both starting by next summer.