Brookville prepares budget for 2023

By Terry Baver [email protected]

BROOKVILLE — Council approved a resolution to make appropriations for the current expenses and other expenditures during fiscal year ending Dec. 23, 2023.

The resolution was approved following council’s work session on the 2023 budget held Dec. 12 in council chambers.

Sonja Keaton told council at the budget meeting 2022 almost seemed like everything had returned to normal.

“(The year) 2022 seemed like old times when we saw an increase in income tax, motel tax, local government tax and interest on investment receipts in the general fund which allowed us to add a full-time employee in the fire department,” Keaton said.

“We had an increase in donations and rentals in our park fund which allowed the extension of electric service in Golden Gate Park and to replace the awning on the Leiber Center building,” Keaton continued.

“We also realized an increase in zoning permits and water and sewer tap-in fees that was due to new housing development which we haven’t seen for quite some time,” Keaton added.

But Keaton stressed there is no guarantee 2023 will produce the same results as 2022.

“We are still amid uncertain times with recession fears and inflation and how they may impact our budget,” Keaton said.

Keaton indicated that finance director Michelle Brandt, who prepared the 2023 budget, is projecting $3.5 million in income tax revenue for 2023.

“This is an increase of $350,000 from 2022’s budgeted income tax revenue.” Keaton said.

“Income tax still accounts for 67 percent of our general fund revenue,” Keaton added.

Keaton said the city’s greatest growth in the city’s budget has been in personnel costs, which, she noted, is the greatest cost to most cities.

“Payroll and benefits account for 35 percent of the 2023 budget,” Keaton said.

Brandt told council the fire department is expected to have an “18 to almost a 19 percent increase in expenses.”

“A large percentage of the fire department costs is due to wages,” Brandt said.

Fire Chief Ron Fletcher said his personnel work hard to identify where money can be saved wherever possible.

He added he is fortunate that he doesn’t have to struggle as much as neighboring fire departments in maintaining a part-time staff.

“We try to stay competitive in pay with some of our neighbors in order to keep the part-time staff,” Fletcher said.

“We are what I call middle of the road. We’re not the best paying part-time agency, but we’re certainly not the worst paying,” Fletcher added.

Fletcher noted another large expense is the cost of fuel for the trucks.

“All the trucks run on diesel fuel,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher said to help trim the cost of fuel and to keep from wearing out the fire engines, he doesn’t use the trucks to accompany ambulances on medic runs.

“One of the things we do different than other fire departments is we don’t chase ambulances with fire engines. That saves us a lot of money. To wear out a fire engine driving over our district to just get extra EMS personnel on our medic calls is not cost-effective,” Fletcher said.

“I’ve been against doing that even when working in communities that had money. I can buy a truck load of SUV’s for the cost of one fire truck. The cost of a new fire truck is estimated at $700,000. It makes much more sense to put an economical vehicle on the road,” Fletcher added.

Brandt indicated the police department expenses are only a 1.5 percent increase over 2022.

“The majority of the increase is mostly in wages,” Brandt said.

Brandt also said the cost of fuel should be as high as it currently is in 2022

Brandt noted the police department’s only real capital expense for 2023 is the cost of a new cruiser.

Police chief Doug Jerome said he always replaces a vehicle every year.

He also said because of the difficulty in receiving a new cruiser, he has tentatively put a hold on a new Ford Explorer for this year.

Jerome pointed out the cost of the vehicle has increased over last year’s cost.

“The base price last year was $33,000. The base price this year is $40,000. This is just for the car itself,” Jerome said.

Jerome said the cost of the cruiser outfitted with everything is $56,000.

“Adding the indoor camera raises the cost to $60,000,” Jerome added.

Jerome said the new vehicle could be delivered this spring, but he stressed there is no guarantee that will happen.

Other planned purchases by the city in 2023 include a new Bobcat excavator.

According to Keaton, the service department wants to upgrade to a Bobcat that will better lift concrete than the 2018 Bobcat model the city currently owns.

“The new excavator cost is $71,407. They are giving us a trade-in value of $32,500 on the current excavator,” Keaton said.

“The payment for the new excavator will be divided among the various departments and the service department,” Keaton added.

Keaton said the city plans to purchase a new Gator utility vehicle.

“The current Gator is reaching 3,000 hours. We use it for spraying our parks and streets and for trash pick up, Keaton said.

Keaton said the city purchased the vehicle in 2004.

Keaton indicated the city is also planning to either purchase a new or used pickup truck to replace a current pickup that will be converted into a lift truck.

“Our current lift gate is 22 years old. It’s used frequently to haul such heavy items as mowers and the transport of our used oil we get in the big containers,” Keaton said.

“Our plan is to convert our 2015 GMC pick up that is currently being driven by one of our service department foremen and convert it to a lift gate and then go ahead and order a new or a good used truck to replace that pick up.” Keaton said.

Keaton indicated the 2000 Chevy pickup currently serving as the lift truck will be sold on

Brandt said at present there is not a sewer fund rate increase in the 2023 budget.

“Sonja and I are looking into increasing rates sometime in 2023 because our sewer fund was hit hard this year with the construction of the sludge press building,” Brandt said.

“Also, with the cost of maintenance and replacing parts that break, our sewer fund is not going to fair as well as our water fund. We are expecting a decrease and we can’t maintain a decrease every year,” Brandt continued.

Keaton agreed.

“We’ll definitely going to be looking at that real hard within the next four to six weeks. The last sanitary sewer rate increase was in March of 2019, so we are overdue,” Keaton said.

“We may have to look at some upgrades to the plant in the near future, like maybe the next five or 10 years,” Keaton added.

Although sewer rates may be increasing in 2023, Brandt noted there will not be a rate increase for water.

“I’m not going to suggest an increase in water rates for 2023. With the increase of Dayton’s rates I did a calculation based on what we were charged this year compared to what will be charged next year and I don’t think an increase in the cost of water is necessary. Our water fund is in pretty good condition right now,” Brandt said.

Keaton noted she and the staff still continue to monitor the city’s revenue before spending any money.

“ If the money’s not there, we don’t make our purchases as we planned. That’s something we’ve always done and will continue to do. By law, cities must keep a balanced budget,” Keaton said.

Mayor Chuck Letner echoed Keaton’s comments.

“We are very fugal with our money. Every dollar is accounted for. We have an open checkbook for everybody to look at. No dime is misspent in this city,” Letner said.

Reach Terry Baver at (937) 833-2545 or via email at [email protected]

By Terry Baver [email protected]