Springfield to use reserves to balance 2024 budget

Next year’s income tax receipts are projected to increase by 3.3% compared to 2023.

Springfield Finance Director Katie Eviston presented a preliminary budget to City Commissioners a public hearing in conjunction with their most recent meeting.

General Fund revenues for the 2024 budget year are projected to be $56,770,625, down $1.8 million from the 2023 revised budget figure. Eviston attributed that difference to grant dollars in the previous year that were earmarked for Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport improvements.

Budgeted expenditures for 2024, assuming full staffing levels for the city, total $57,646,932, indicating a budget shortfall of $876,000. However, the city is also expecting an operating surplus of $1.4 million at the end of this year, and will use reserves to fill that gap to balance the budget for 2024.

The 2024 income tax receipts are projected to increase by 3.3% compared to 2023, and city officials expressed appreciation to city voters for the renewal of the income tax levy that funds essential services. Without those dollars, Eviston pointed out, state cuts in allocations to cities across Ohio would leave the Springfield with the inability to cover essential service costs.

The largest part of the budget, 56%, is earmarked for public safety, which includes police and fire services. Neighborhood services total 10% of the dollars and municipal court costs total 9%. Parks and public transportation account for 2%, and all other expenses total 23%.

The Neighborhood Streets Paving Program is budgeted at $3.1 million for 2024, part of the city’s commitment for use of the levy dollars approved by voters. Since the program started in 2018, $13 million has been spent on street improvements, impacting all parts of the city.

City officials also promised — and have delivered on — dedicating levy funds for the reopening the police substation on Johnny Lytle Blvd and fire station #5 in 2017, adding police officers for improved safety, investing in equipment and city assets and ensuring financial stability by maintaining a general fund reserve.

The city has also invested significantly in permanent improvements to city utility systems, including sewer/water/stormwater infrastructure, committing over $100 million over the last five years to improvements.

A full staffing, the city has authorized employment of 130 police officers and 130 fire division personnel. Recruitment efforts have fallen short of reaching those levels, but efforts are ongoing to meet those targeted goals.

Commissioner Kevin O’Neill commended the city finance department for effective budgeting to balance the budget, and Commissioner David Estrop noted the city has not utilized federal funding available through COVID relief efforts for additional staffing but has instead dedicated those one-time available funds to major projects and improvements with long-term benefit to the city.

City Commissioners are expected to take official action at the Dec. 19 meeting to finalize and approve the budget for the coming year.

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