The cost of the bad winter has mounted, along with the snow, for Akron.
The city has so far spent $500,000 more this winter on overtime for employees battling the snow and ice.
Added to that, the city has spent $166,000 more on water main breaks this year thanks to frequent freezing and thawing temperatures.
The extra water main repairs will be covered by water customer fees, but not the additional snow and ice costs.
“Snow and ice will come from various sources, but ultimately we will need to look at other areas we can reduce to make sure we stay on budget,” said Finance Director Diane Miller-Dawson.
The impact of the severe winter was highlighted during Akron’s annual operating budget process, which provides a road map for spending and revenue for the coming year.
The city’s proposed budget for 2013 again includes a mixture of good and bad, with income taxes projected to rise but state revenues plunging. Also, expected casino revenues have lagged.
“We were promised lots of revenues,” Miller-Dawson told Akron City Council during her recent budget overview. “That has not materialized.”
City Council, which held budget hearings the past two weeks, will get a final version of the proposed $582 million budget Monday and is expected to vote on the budget March 17.
Some budget highlights:
• The proposed 2013 budget was up $40 million from the actual budget, which ended at $541 million.
• The general fund is expected to fall $6 million from last year, to about $152 million.
• Akron ended 2013 with a carryover of $5.3 million, up $274,000 from the ending balance in 2012. This year’s carryover should be about the same.
Akron’s major source of revenue — income taxes — is projected to rise for the second year in a row. The city is expecting a 2.5 percent raise. Property taxes are also expected to grow by 2 percent.
Miller-Dawson said income taxes finally rebounded in 2013 to the pre-recession level of 2007. Revenue fell between 2008 and 2010 before starting to bounce back in 2011.
But money from the state is continuing to decline. Akron received more than $12.4 million in local government funding in 2011 before the state began reducing assistance. The city received about $6.6 million in local government funds in 2013 and is expecting another $500,000 dip this year.
The state also eliminated the estate tax, worth an annual average of $4.2 million to Akron. The city might get about $100,000 from estates still being settled under the old law, but Miller-Dawson said she budgeted no money from that source.
As state leaders pulled some funding sources away, they claimed revenue from Ohio’s four casinos would make up for the loss.
Akron received $3.4 million last year and expects the same amount this year, Miller-Dawson said, but “it’s not coming in as they first thought. It is not filling the gap.”
The city plans to hire 60 police officers and 12 firefighters this year, with most of the cost paid by federal grants.
And other labor costs are up, the result of an agreement reached between the unions and Mayor Don Plusquellic in 2012. The pact gave yearly raises over three years while leaving other contract language alone. The contracts run through the end of 2015.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Civil Service Personnel Association (CSPA), and the police and fire unions received 2 percent raises in 2013, a 1 percent raise Jan. 5 and will get another 1 percent boost next January. The unions also could receive bonuses for 2014 and 2015, contingent on income tax revenue gains.
Health-care costs are also expected to rise as much as 10 percent this year, to $33 million.
A committee of city and union leaders has been working on creative ways to address rising medical care costs, though no concrete plans have been developed.
“The goal is for both sides to come out a winner,” Miller-Dawson said.
Union leaders say they are open to money-saving changes, but not if it costs their members more.
“The members aren’t going to vote for it,” said George Johnson, president of Akron’s 400-member AFSCME unit. “It’s not up to me — it’s up to my members. If we take it back to them without real serious just cause that can be proven, it’s highly likely they won’t vote for it. If it ain’t right, they will chew us up.”
Snow and ice removal has cost the city $4 million this season, up from $3.5 million last year.
Pubic works manager Paul Barnett said crews have worked long hours with little time off, with early snow falls sending them straight from picking up leaves to plowing.
“I think we had a stretch of about 20 days when they were working every single day,” he said. “They have been working six 12-hour days from the end of October.”
The city hired 10 additional full-time road employees to help out, rather than relying on temporary seasonal employees. Barnett said that’s because federal health-care laws require coverage for part-time workers who reach a certain level anyway. There is also a lot of competition for employees with Commercial Driver Licenses (CDLs).
“To have 45 temporary CDL operators who only work for winter is impossible to do,” he said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics.