Titusville City Council approved the first reading of the 2022 budget including a tax increase at their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday night.
If approved at their December meeting, city residents will see a two mill increase to their real estate taxes, going from 24.713 mills on buildings to 26.713.
The budget will now be on display at City Hall and available on the City website.
Council also formally accepted the resignation of CJ Kirvan and started the process of replacing him for the December meetings, before the newly-elected candidates take their seats.
Tuesday night’s council meeting was dominated by financial talks and featured a budget presentation from City Manager Neil Fratus and City Finance Director Heather Plowman.
The duo discussed in detail how the city budget has changed from 2021 to 2022 and the financial outlook of the city. As it stands, the City has a balanced budget with revenues and expenses of $9,648,526. This is an increase from the 2021 budget of $9,178,268, a 5.1% change. Plowman showed that the general fund is up 7.2%, refuse is down 10%, the water fund is up 4.9% and the sewer fund is up 31%.
Plowman tried to hammer home one message to the public, that expenses continue to outpace revenue. The City is looking to add new revenue streams.
The City also added a part time police clerk and a deputy treasurer. Fratus also discussed future projects that the City has on the books, including more work for the Day Park green space and a plethora of projects for the Ed Myer complex.
Part of the reason that many of the city’s funds have increased is that the city is playing catchup on many capital expenses and projects. The public works department, included in this budget, will lease to own a new leaf truck and is purchasing a new street sweeper. The sweeper will be paid for with short term investment funds.
The capital account is seeing an increase of 188%. “If you take the large items out, we are right on track,” said Plowman about the increase in capital. To help make sure this many capital projects do not come due in one year, the City has worked on a multi-year plan to make sure they have a better grip on what is needed from the departments.
The capital projects and expenses were picked through by the City. The sewer fund originally had capital requests of more than $600,000, what was actually approved is a little more than $400,000.
This back and forth between department heads and council is a staple of the new budget process. Instead of getting a budget from the City, officials now include department heads in every step of the process. “Every year it gets smoother and smoother,” said Plowman about the budget process.
The budget was presented in two bills. Council Bill No.9 raised the taxes, and Council Bill No.10 was the first reading of the budget. The tax increases will net the city $117,000. This is the first time taxes have been raised since 2015.
Deputy Mayor William McCrillis said he was disheartened that during his two years on council, besides a representative from The Herald, no one from the public came to one of the budget sessions.
Mayor Crouch did say that city officials tried all they could to pass a budget with no tax increase. He even said that council had taken items out of their own budget, including money to purchase audio and video equipment to live broadcast city meetings online.
It came to council’s attention that at their last meeting they read councilman CJ Kirvan’s resignation letter, but did not vote to accept it. Council voted unanimously to accept the resignation, and now has to fill his seat.
Kirvan’s term was set to end at the beginning of the new year, so a new councilman would be needed for only two meetings. Mayor Jon Crouch said that the current plan is once the election results have been finalized to invite the highest vote getter to start their run on council two meetings early.
In other business, the City voted to hire a new law firm to represent the City. For the past year the City has been represented by Pepicelli, Youngs and Youngs.
Fratus said that as the needs of the City grow, their needs for legal representation have also grown. “It is time we move on to a larger firm,” said Fratus.
Council voted to be represented by Knox Law Firm, out of Erie. Fratus said that Knox is a larger firm that has more specializations, especially when it comes to representing municipalities. Council did thank Pepicelli, Youngs and Youngs, and attorney Brian Cagle for their time with the City.
The City was able to fill two vacant spots on their various boards, councils and authorities. Robert Coxe was unanimously appointed to serve on the planning commission, and Jacklyn Bower was unanimously appointed to the Shade Tree Commission. The City has a list of other vacancies on the city website.
Dvorkin can be reached by email at Gdvorkin@titusvilleherald.com.