By BRIAN BOHNERT
The city budget was the key focus of Tuesday night’s meeting of Fostoria Finance Committee as the books were officially closed on 2013.
City Auditor Steve Garner gave his report for the 2013 year Tuesday, presenting his analysis of the annual budget with focus on the general fund.
Comparing the general fund for the last two years, Garner said revenue for 2013 was down 6 percent from 2012’s $6,980,137.19 with $6,567,579.30. On the other side of the spectrum, general fund expense for 2013 was $6,437,161.06, down 4 percent from the previous year’s $6,683,362.32.
The city’s municipal income tax receipts have taken a tumble in recent years thanks to the recession. According to Garner’s analysis, receipts for the month ending Dec. 31, 2013 were down 8.83 percent compared to Dec. 31, 2012.
Prior to the recession, on Dec. 31, 2007, the receipts came in at $6,064,911.86. Over the last six years the numbers have plummeted, hitting $4,371,871.78 for 2013.
Examining the 2013 year month-by-month, Garner noted an even more drastic drop. In August, the month the city usually sees the most tax receipts from local businesses, receipts dropped 41.16 percent, going from $520,664.31 in August 2012 to $306,367.45 in 2013.
Garner said he attributes the uncertain economic effects of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act to why the city did not receive a higher volume of tax receipts from local businesses.
On a positive note, Garner said all of the city’s funds ended in the black for 2013, meaning none of the funds finished the year losing money. The general fund itself ended 2013 more than $300,000 in the black, he said.
Garner also introduced his initial budget report for 2014, which was prepared in June 2013.
According to the report, the estimated revenue for 2014 will be $6,130,000, down from 2013’s estimated revenue of $6,381,039. Garner said he initially expected about a $500,000 carryover for the general fund into 2014, but the income tax plunge in August has reduced it to roughly $300,000.
During the meeting, Fostoria Police Capt. Patrick Brooks asked that finance committee allow $8,000 be taken from the city’s Drug Enforcement Trust Fund for the purchase of both evidence tracking software and up-to-date equipment for crime scene processing.
Brooks said Fostoria Police Department is undergoing a “complete audit” of its evidence room and $4,000 for the new software, including the program, scanners, printers and bar codes, would allow officers to better track evidence and keep more thorough records of what comes into the police station.
Any and all updates to the software would be included in the purchase for the first five years, Brooks said, with any upgrades costing $400 yearly after that.
The other $4,000 would go toward providing Fostoria Police Det. Shiloh Frankart with updated crime scene processing equipment to better solve cases. Because Frankart went through crime scene processing training, Brooks said three open burglary cases have been closed.
The new equipment would include using digital photographs to better analyze crime scenes, Brooks said.
The next meeting of Fostoria City Council’s Finance Committee will be at 7:10 p.m. Feb. 18 in council chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building.
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