By HOWARD BALABAN
Medina Journal-Register — MEDINA — Rising salaries, benefits, and workers compensation premiums have hamstrung the Medina Village Board’s efforts to create a manageable budget for the upcoming year.
The first draft of the budget called for a tax levy of around $3.2 million for the next fiscal year. The current fiscal year featured a levy of $2.6 million.
So far the village board has managed to go line by line in the budget to find areas from which it can cut. And so far, it has managed to bring the prospective budget to where the tax levy would be $2,867,562. While that is still a significant increase, board members stressed the budget process is not yet complete and they are still working on finding ways to bring the numbers down some more.
On Monday night the board met before its regularly scheduled bi-monthly meeting and managed to cut an additional $85,000 out of the budget.
The village currently sits at a tax rate of $15.81 per $1,000 of assessed value. Should the current projections hold, the rate would increase to $17.32. Again, numbers are not yet finalized.
Mayor Andrew Meier said the state of the village budget is “discouraging.”
He said the overall costs to run the village are going up, and he pointed to some of the more dramatic increases in the village’s contributions to employee retirement benefits, workers’ compensation premiums, and health insurance. Those three areas averaged a 20 percent increase for 2013-14, Meier said.
There are also contracted salaries on the village payroll that are set to rise.
“We have no choice on those costs,” he said.
Meier said the village budget heading into 2012-13 was “tight” and included some money from the general fund to cover some expenditures. However, since that money was used there is less carryover into the 2013-14 budget, he explained.
Put simply, Meier said, “We can’t budget for next year what we did this year.”
The village is also dealing with less revenue this year, part of which can be attributed to a significant decline in ambulance reimbursement costs. Also, the tax base is slowly eroding and lower assessments within the village have compounded the budgetary problem. The drop in assessments will hurt even more next year, he said.
Fixing the financial concerns of the village is a chief concern of its board members, but Meier said it may require some outside-of-the-box thinking to achieve a solution.
With neighboring communities maintaining comparatively low tax rates, Meier and fellow board members pointed to village dissolution as just one possible avenue to explore. The board previously approved a study to explore such an option by a unanimous decision. However, it is only one possibility. Meier said the fix could come via some other process, but that getting to the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel requires an “open mind.”
He said, “We need to do some soul-searching to figure out our priorities as a community and determine how we should structure this government of ours for the long haul.”
Another possibility discussed in recent months is that of hiring a village coordinator. But again, with the budget so tight, there is really no way to bring one on board this year, Meier said.
A coordinator, in theory, would provide “both tangible and intangible savings in both the short and long term,” Meier said.
Meanwhile, in the extreme short term, the village must still come up with a finalized budget to adopt. It will meet again on Monday to look for more possible cuts and discuss ways in which to save money for the taxpayers. The meeting is set for 7 p.m.