GALION — Galion City Council is one step closer — but still has a little work to do — to finalize the 2020 City of Galion budget. The 2019 budget was $35,065,562. The proposed budget council members are working with — as of Tuesday — is $35,150,952, an increase of about $85,000.
“We’re in better shape than some communities around here,” said city auditor Brian Treisch.
It’s a process that city department heads, city council members, Treisch and Mayor Tom O’Leary go through each year.
On hand at Tuesday’s meeting were students and staff from Galion Middle School, who received explanations from Treisch, O’Leary and others about the budgeting process.
A similar number of students sat in on a city council meeting two weeks ago, in which there was a more in-depth discussion of city finances.
The budget will be fine-tuned once again and presented to council for a final reading and passage at the next council meeting on Dec. 23. That is the final, scheduled full-council meeting of the year.
“Thanks for everyone in the city for allowing us to do this,” said GMS teacher Troy Yunker. “We learned a lot of things last week and we are appreciative that everyone has been so helpful in explaining things and answering our questions.”
Galion’s budget is in good shape for a couple of major reasons this year, including:
- An increase in the cost of insurance and benefits for workers in unions who ratified now contracts this year was not near as large as projected.
- The city also paid off $700,000 in debt this year that helped to save money in interest and administrative costs.
- There were also some time-line changes made to a project at Galion Airport that resulted in savings.
O’Leary added that an increase in the state sales tax means the city will received additional funding of about $200,000 from the state next year. And while that may not affect the budget’s bottom line, the mayor said it will make it possible to up the city’s paving and road maintenance budget.
O’Leary also made reference to the city’s plan to make the new stoplights at Ohio 598 and Brandt Road operational Wednesday. He said he hopes drivers be cognizant and alert as they drive through the area in recent weeks. He and other are worried about possible crashes until drivers get used to the changes in traffic flow.
Council members did pass legislation making changes to Galion’s codified ordinances that affect gun ownership and more. The state of Ohio asked municipalities to change their ordinance to put them more in line with state law. Recently, the Ohio Revised Code was changed to remove from “Ohio municipalities the right to enact and enforce laws relating to the ownership, possession, purchase, other acquisition, transport, storage, carrying, sale, other transfer, manufacture, taxation, keeping and report of loss of theft of firearms, their components and their ammunition,” City law director Thomas Palmer explained at a recent meeting.
The changes do not make gun laws in Galion any less or more restrictive. It just takes out wording that gives Galion control of those things.
Palmer said the law originated as a way to protect local entities from possible lawsuits. Several years ago, attorneys and others made money filing frivolous lawsuits against municipalities all over the state due to a loophole concerning public records requests.
“(This) is being put under state control to prevent municipalities from being sued and having to pay attorney fees, damages and other costs associated with those types of lawsuits.”
City council members also received an update from the Experience Galion group by board president Melissa Cornwell. The group is Galion’s official “tourism bureau” and is in part supported by the city. Highlights from 2019 included forming a board, and putting forth a mission statement for the new group, upgrading the Experience Galion website and installing an electronic billboard in a window at the Topia Boutique on the square.
There was some discussion about how to increase revenue for the group.