Tipp Council adopts operating budget

TIPP CITY — Tipp City Council voted to adopt the operating budget for fiscal year 2021 Monday evening, after an hour of discussion concerning deficits within the budget.

Mayor Joseph Gibson voiced his concerns about an estimated $400,000 deficit and had submitted two proposals regarding the deficit, as well as addressed that Tipp City Fire Chief Cameron Haller was present at the meeting to address budget needs from the fire department’s side.

“In looking at this, I know there are a great deal of changes to our fire department and EMS, and I can recall a study being commissioned by, I believe it’s the Ohio Fire Chief’s Association, regarding the overall status of the fire department, and I believe they make recommendations,” Gibson said.

Gibson went on to add that the report was delayed due to miscellaneous issues, and that it was indicated to him that the final version of the report would be submitted around Dec. 14. He noted that the ongoing expenses and increase within the fire department’s budget is related to expanding additional staffing within the department, and that discussed over the last several years was that the largest unknown facing the city is how fire services would be provided in the community.

“The discussion indicates that we have arrived at a point where the discussion must take on more urgency,” Gibson said. “If we agree to increase staffing at the fire station in 2021, we will have to use a portion of the funds reserves to offset this cost.”

Gibson initially motioned to amend the ordinance and hold off on voting on the ordinance until the study from the fire commission was received; he withdrew this motion later in the meeting after it was addressed that a decision could not be held off for the next council meeting, to be held in January 2021.

“The time to act is now,” Haller said when addressing council. “We have dual certified folks now. More and more, we are relying on people at the station with dual certification more than volunteers.”

Haller pointed out that the budget included that the fire department needed a fifth person to be on duty at the fire department all the time, and that this was a minimal first step for the public’s safety as well as personnel safety. The budget increase is for one person, and could be for more people as needed to fill hours among the department.

“This fifth person is for the safety of the citizens, for the safety of the responders, and is just overall operational efficiency,” Haller said.

Haller noted that while there are budget increases, the department’s whole net expense once contracts are in place from townships and EMS billing, the cost is $640,000 to the residents of Tipp City, which amounts to roughly $66.12 per resident annually.

“I respect that, I know that it’s a real cost, I know that it’s more than the year before (…) but that is an absolutely small price to pay to have an equipped, staffed response unit, whether that’s EMS, fire and rescue, or whatever we get called to do, to show up and operate effectively within our jurisdiction,” Haller said.

Council member Frank Scenna talked about reallocating funding from the Capital Improvement Fund to the general fund to help offset the deficit. Tipp City Finance Director John Green noted that if that were to happen, the city would have to look at a few of the projects slated for 2021 and delay some of them depending on the cost.

“Any project that we have that are that significant and have to come to council for approval before we would initiate them, that’s when we would make those adjustments to make sure we would stay within the amount of money that we have available in both the general fund and the captial improvement fund, if we were to move that portion of the income tax,” Green said.

The ordinance was passed as submitted in a 4-3 vote, with Gibson, council member Kathryn Huffman, and council member Mike McFarland voting against the ordinance.

Also passed at Monday’s meeting was:

• Ordinance 27-20, an ordinance to make appropriations for current expenses and other expenditures of the municipality of Tipp City during the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2021;

• Ordinance 28-20, an ordinance amending and modifying the 2020 Annual Operating Budget to appropriate additional monies for various unanticipated events which have occurred during the course of the city’s 2020 fiscal year;

• Ordinance 29-20, an ordinance vacating a 7,500 square foot section of right-of-way between Inlots 91 and 92 on South Street;

• Ordinance 30-20, an ordinance allowing the city to place a 10-year Capital Improvement renewal levy on the May 4, 2021 ballot;

• Resolution 61-20, a resolution authorizing the city nanager to enter into a contract with Perram Electric, Inc. of Wadsworth for the Traffic Signal Improvement Project in the amount of $179,535.03; and

• A motion accepting the Tipp City Community Improvement Corporation Strategic Plan.

The next council meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 4.