Meadville City Council members approved the first and second readings of the 2018 budget and tax levy by a vote of 4-0 at their Wednesday meeting. Final approval likely will come following the third reading at council’s Dec. 20 meeting.
The budget includes $139,000 borrowed from one of the city’s reserve funds. Council members have said the money will be restored to the fund in the near future as additional sources of revenue and savings are identified, though no definite sources have yet been determined.
Following the meeting, Mayor LeRoy Stearns and Councilwoman Nancy Mangilo Bittner both expressed confidence that the borrowed money could be restored to the reserve fund and said the decision to borrow from the reserve fund would not set a bad precedent for future councils.
“I don’t think it does,” Mangilo Bittner said, “only because we’ve paid it back (in the past).”
The city has borrowed from the fund three times previously: $257,000 in 2004, $200,000 in 2010 and $17,000 in 2011. The city paid back the funds borrowed in 2006 and 2015.
The financial context in which the previous withdrawals were made was significantly different, however, according to City Manager Andy Walker. In each case, new streams of revenue such as the local services tax or cable franchise fee had been identified. No such source of revenue is on the horizon now.
After the meeting, Mangilo Bittner intimated that possible sources of additional revenue had been identified, but she declined to say what they were.
“It just hasn’t been presented (at a council meeting) yet,” she said.
The reserve fund borrowing comes when the council has already discussed rising expenditures on the near horizon, including debt service payments that will escalate by approximately $150,000 for three consecutive years beginning in 2019. The increasing expenditures make restoring the reserve funds all the more challenging, but Stearns and Mangilo Bittner did not seem daunted by the task.
“I’m not too worried about the amount of money,” Mangilo Bittner said.
“We’ve got a lot of great ideas,” Stearns added.
If final approval moves forward as expected, real estate taxes for the city will remain level at the current rate of 21.92 mills. One mill equal $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. Thus, the owner of a city home assesses at the median value of $25,000 pays $548 each year in property taxes.
Councilman Bob Langley was absent from the meeting. He had previously stated his opposition to borrowing from the reserve funds.
Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.