Plain City Council is working to adjust the village’s budget and upcoming events in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During Wednesday’s council work session, which was held online via Zoom, Village Administrator Nathan Cahall shared potential revisions to the 2020 budget.
Due to the pandemic, he said staff is expecting a 20% reduction in income tax collection this year.
For that reason, he said the village’s general fund ending balance will likely be reduced by 22%, or from $2.28 million to $1.78 million.
Similarly, the income tax fund ending balance, used for capital improvements, will decrease by 14%. Cahall projected a $1.1 million ending balance compared to the initial $1.3 million.
Without the reduction, Cahall said there would be about 11 months’ worth of carryover in the general fund.
He said staff is “very comfortable” with reducing the budget to about eight months of carryover.
Council member John Rucker said he felt that was enough buffer in case of a second wave of COVID-19, but wouldn’t go below that amount.
“Pessimism is the ultimate survival trait,” he said.
On the other hand, Council member Frank Reed said, “I’m real conservative and would not touch our general fund unless it’s nondiscretionary spending.”
Aside from Reed, council agreed to work toward adjusting the budget to an eight-month carryover.
To do so, Cahall presented staff with several budget items that could be cut in the general fund and capital improvement fund.
Within the general fund, staff agreed the zoning code rewrite, which would cost approximately $125,000, could wait until next fiscal year.
Rather than cutting it entirely, Council member Darren Lee asked it be deferred for a couple months and reevaluated when things become more stable. Cahall said he will leave it in the budget, but advise staff not to pursue it until September.
Council members also agreed that Uptown improvements, such as adding lighting, street furniture and paving sidewalks, for approximately $120,000 could be removed from the budget.
Cahall said he and Fiscal Officer Renee Sonnett will present revised budget appropriations to council in June.
Council also discussed whether Fourth of July events will take place and, if so, how they will be hosted safely.
Council President Pro-Tem Jody Carney, who is also on the Parks and Recreation Committee, said the committee would like to keep the fireworks show. She said village officials should “put on our thinking caps and get creative” to find ways to social distance.
Cahall agreed that staff would like to host a fireworks show, but only if “we can follow the adage of ‘do no harm.’”
He said Plain City is one of the last communities that hasn’t canceled its Fourth of July events yet, so staff is worried they would draw more people from neighboring areas.
Council members Sherry Heineman and Shannon Pine raised concerns surrounding the village’s ability to enforce and police social distancing if the events drew large crowds.
“If we’re the only one in the area, we’re going to draw a mess of traffic,” Reed agreed.
Plain City Police Department Chief Dale McKee agreed that he is fearful the village doesn’t have
“the manpower to take care of all those extra people.” He said he felt more comfortable with postponing the event.
Parks and Recreation Director Linda Granger said the village would typically need to provide a 45-day notice if it chose to reschedule the event. However, she said the fireworks company is “being very lenient” given the circumstances.
Cahall said the village could choose to postpone the fireworks show until the pandemic has died down, potentially Labor Day weekend.
“The question is: to what extent do we want to run the risk of creating a hotspot or outbreak later in the year?” he said.
Pine echoed his sentiment, adding, “With everyone else canceling, I don’t see why we should hold it and risk our community and staff.”
Cahall said the village anticipates more guidance from Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health within the next one or two weeks.
Council agreed to wait until then to decide whether fireworks will be held, but members agreed they are leaning toward postponing the events.
Village staff is also facing a similar predicament regarding pool operations.
From a financial perspective, Cahall said staff is confident the pool could operate this year. However, he said there are major safety concerns that surround opening the pool.
Granger said there could be ways to operate with a limited capacity and divide admission into shifts, but is unsure what the state-imposed guidelines will be.
Even if the pool does open, Cahall said the Plain City Sharks swim team is unlikely to happen this year. Swim lessons will also be affected, he said.
Ultimately, Granger said the village needs to wait for further guidance from the state and move forward with hopes of opening the pool sometime this season.
“If I’m not comfortable with my own kids being at the pool, I’m not comfortable with anyone’s kids at the pool,” Cahall added.
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