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Mayor says ‘frill’ is gone

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By Jamie Baker-Nantz

A new aquatic center in Williamstown and any major capitol improvements won’t be happening in the next year.
According to Mayor Rick Skinner, the 2012-2013 budget is “just the bare necessities.”

“It’s a tight budget, with no frills,” he said.

The aquatic center, which was a partnership with the Williamstown School District, is being placed on hold since there were no funds to proceed with the project.

The school district and city council were working with an architect on a design for the project, which was dependent on financing.
Skinner said the school district didn’t receive as much funding from the state as they anticipated, so the project would have to be shelved for now.

“I’m very disappointed but I understand why,” said Bob Perry, a council member. “I hope in the next couple of years things will get better and we can bring it off the table because I want to see the city do the project.”

Williamstown’s budget is tight because the city must make two payments of $435,000 in December 2012 and June 2013 on the new waste water treatment plant.

“We’ve been anticipating this and putting money back each month to meet that debt,” Skinner said.

The city council began working on the budget a couple of months ago.

For the first time in several years, Skinner said city employees did not receive a 1.5 a cost of living increase.

Williamstown’s budget differs from other cities in the county because Williamstown owns and operates its own utilities including cable TV, electric, water and sewer.

In the 2012-13 budget, revenues are as follows:
• Cable TV - $1,302,200
• Electric - $5,228,300
• Water - $1,732,000
• Sewer - $2,118,900
• General fund (property, vehicle taxes, licenses, permits, etc.) - $1,496,200

The city receives revenue from several sources including its utilities and property/vehicle taxes and an insurance premium tax.
However, revenues in the water and sewer departments were down slightly.

“In this economy people are being more conservative with their water and electric use,” Skinner said.
In the city’s next year’s budget, which begins on July 1, the expenditures are predicted to be:• Cable TV - $1,295,900
• Electric - $3,974,700
• Water - $1,143,200
• Sewer - $980,500

The general fund includes services such as police, fire, streets, parks and recreation.

The police department, general government and streets make up the largest allocations of the general fund. In next year’s budget, $789,400 was allocated for police and $546,500 was allocated for streets and the Williamstown Cemetery and $419,300 was set aside for general government.

The fire department received $185,600 and parks and recreation was allocated $13,250.

Skinner said the city’s utilities are continuing to subsidize the general fund, but this year’s amount is less than last year.

One area that a committee composed of Councilmen Eddie Gabbert, Police Chief Al Rich, Assistant City Clerk Crystal Fryman and Skinner addressed was overtime for city employees.

Skinner said they looked at overtime costs to the city for the last five years and made some changes in the city’s personnel manual.
Following city council’s approval, employees must now work an actual 40 hours, without using any vacation to get to 40 hours, before they are eligible for overtime pay.

Skinner said it’s tough to predict when there will be overtime, especially for the utility departments in the event of bad weather.

“We’ve built some overtime in the budget and we’ll think we’re handling it closely and then something will happen and your overtime hours are up,” he said.

Two weeks ago, employees in the electric department spent as much as four hours working to restore electricity when a snake slithered across lines at the substation on Barnes Road, sending current back into the substation and catching it on fire.

“That you’ll never be able to predict,” said Skinner.

The city did recently purchase the former Cincinnati Bell building in the center of town for $145,000. The electric and cable departments will eventually move to that location.

This purchase included a 225 foot tower, which will be used for the city’s Internet and Cable equipment, as opposed to those being located on a water tower.

“This will actually make money for us,” Skinner said.