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Monday, June 20, 2016

PREVIEW: Fort Thomas To Discuss Proposed Budget

Fort Thomas City Council from the June 6 meeting. 
The Fort Thomas City Council met on Monday, June 6, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.  All council members were present.  This meeting focused mainly on the 2016 - 2017 proposed budget and looked at the amended budget from the previous year.

Former councilman, Adam Meier, had previously started the conversation last year, to not take the full tax rate increase available by law, something that previous councils had never done in Fort Thomas.

The proposed budget for next year assumes a full property tax increase.

RELATED: Fort Thomas to Discuss Property Tax Rate 

He indicated, while discussing the budget, that he preferred a budget neutral approach along with a tax rate to reflect that need, instead of an automatic rate increase plus four percent.

"I understand the purpose for running a surplus but feel through prudent budgets and management in the past, the City is now in a position to pass a revenue neutral budget and use current reserves for any large unanticipated expenditures that may arise," he told FTM

One of Meier's last votes on Fort Thomas City Council, was a "no" vote to the proposed budget that was revenue positive. Councilwoman, Lisa Kelly, voted with him, but the rest of council - Ken Bowman, John Muller, Jeff Bezold and Roger Peterman - all voted for the max increase.

Meier's reason for not raising taxes were, in part, due to the conservative nature in which the city budgets. He said he believed that revenues would continue to come in greater than expected and expenditures would not exceed their numbers.

At least for last year, he was right.

During a Finance Committee meeting in May, Finance Director, Joe Ewald, gave a rundown of how those numbers turned out. "Revenues have come in well. We've exceeded budget numbers. As for expenditures: a few we've exceeded, but overall we are far below. Even with some of the road emergencies, we have come in under budget. I think we'll be similar to last year," he said.

Tonight, council will vote on the operating budget for 2016-2017.

The question will be this: will someone take up Meier's mantle on tax reform or will taxes continue to tick up in Fort Thomas?
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Here's the summary for the operating budget:

The total general fund revenue is $11,356,787, which is a 2.4% increase over the current year budget.  The total increase in operating revenue is $263,544, with property tax assuming a 4% increase.

The total general fund expense is $11,416,388 which is a 3.6% increase over the current year budget. The total increase in expenditures is $399,604, which assumes a 2% increase in base pay.  The County Employee Retirement System (CERS) increased from 17.06% to 18.68% for non-hazardous employees.  It decreased from 32.95% to 31.06% for hazardous employees.

Fund transfers increased by 8% to fund Tower Park projects.  FTM will have more in-depth coverage on this in the near future.

Changes in revenue are as follows:
Real taxes - a 4% projected increase to $4,698,720
Payroll license fee - projected to stay the same at $2,100,000
Insurance license fee - a 2.1% increase to $2,350,000
Automobile property tax - projected to remain $395,000
Net profits business license - remain the same at $340,000
These sources account for 87% of the annual revenue.

In administration, there will be a 1.27% increase from the previous year, due to budgeted increases in salary.  Medical insurance will increase by 14.39%.

In the finance department, there will be a 3.48% increase from the previous year due to restricting payroll costs.  Medical insurance will increase to 14.39%. (include your notes on city file server replacement)

In the police department, there will be a 3.34% increase from the previous year, and a medical insurance increase of 16.14%.  Large ticket items include computer replacement, body-worn cameras, tasers, and one police cruiser.

In the fire department, there will be a 1.86% increase from the previous year, with medical insurance increasing by 14.69%.  The County Employee Retirement System (CERS) will decrease by 0.92%.  The large ticket items include computer upgrades, radio equipment, firefighting foam, hose replacement, and paramedic supply.

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