David Paulk

FAIRLAWN: The City Council had to make a slight change to its $12 million operating budget to account for a rise in indigent deaths.

Mayor William Roth said the budget approved this week is pretty conservative as no major projects are planned.

The only thing that was out of the ordinary was the number of indigent burials the city has to pay for, said Assistant Finance Director Patricia Bertsch. The burials are for residents who don’t have family or lack funds to pay for funeral expenses. Ohio law says the city has to pay the bill.

Fairlawn has already had five such burials recently, Bertsch said.

This is more burials than the city is accustomed to dealing with forcing a last-minute addition to the budget.

“It’s a cost we don’t anticipate on being this high,” Bertsch said. “We’ve never had five that I can recall ever in one year and it’s only March.”

Usually the number of indigent burials in Fairlawn is between zero to two a year, Bertsch said.

The city is able to pay a maximum of $1,800 toward each death. The city has paid $5,400 for indigent burials this year.

Nursing home residents are usually the source, Bertsch said.

She said their Medicare benefits and limited assets only pay for a fraction of the costs.

The city then “picks up the difference,” Bertsch said.

The bulk of the $12 million budget is comprised of employee wages and benefits, which were increased after recent contract negotiations ended in 2 percent raises.

City officials are still negotiating contracts with the police department. But Bertsch said they are anticipating a 2 percent wage increase for them as well, which is reflected in the budget.

“We’re assuming that’s probably going to be the case,” Bertsch said.