Budget funds running out
Summit County officials are projecting the county will run out of money in the Service Area #6 fund by the end of the year.
Service Area #6 pays for road maintenance and plowing in specific unincorporated neighborhoods throughout the county.
"We’ve done most of the road maintenance, so most of the cost until the end of the year will be staff plowing roads and putting down salt," Summit County Manager Bob Jasper said during Wednesday’s Summit County Council budget work session. "So I guess one option is to quit doing that until the end of the year since we won’t have any money left."
Jasper added that he didn’t think that was a great option, however. Instead, he suggested they borrow money from next year’s gas tax fund to get through the rest of this year.
"I don’t think it’s fair to punish Summit Park. If we’re not out there plowing the roads, they aren’t going to get to work and we’re not going to be able to get emergency vehicles up there," he said.
Councilmember Sally Elliott argued against the idea of borrowing from the gas tax.
"Can we talk for a minute about borrowing from the future and about us being willing to pass off to the next council problems caused in our council by the referendums?" Elliott asked. "I’m not sure that’s the responsible thing to do."
Opponents of the Service Area #6 and Municipal Fund tax increases adopted by the County Council in August circulated successful petitions to put the two measures on a future ballot.
"I want to ask them, on Service Area #6, because none of them live, pay or benefit from it, ‘Was this more philosophical, that the government spends too much and so you shouldn’t have tax increases?" Jasper said.
Councilmember Chris Robinson said he was more upset the Service Area #6 fund has been steadily decreasing for years without it being brought to their attention.
In 2008, the fund balance was $800,000. Since then, the county has been deficit spending until the County Council decided last December to increase the tax to balance the fund’s budget.
"It’s been bleeding for four years," Robinson said. "And all of a sudden, we wake up today, or whenever you guys suggested we needed a tax increase, and said, ‘Wow, we’re in the hole.’ I just don’t know how we get to that."
To balance the budget without the tax increase, Robinson suggested a combination approach to Jasper’s options: minimize expenditures for the remainder of the year and borrow the difference from another fund, such as the gas tax, and repay the money next year from the Service Area #6 fund.
In addition, Robinson suggested the council revoke the two petitioned taxes and consider new tax increases on both funds for the 2013 budget, with a caveat that nothing be spent until they are sure petitions won’t again put the increases on hold.
Jasper cautioned that the only way to minimize costs in the winter is to reduce staff, equipment and salt.
"So we have to get the word out to the neighborhoods, particularly in our higher neighborhoods like Pinebrook and Summit Park, that very soon we’re not going to be out there as fast to plow," Jasper said. "People are used to having salt on the roads. You run the risk of people expecting salt, and the roads are going to be much icier without it. They’re not going to have the same level of service they’ve grown accustomed to."
Anita Lewis, Brent Ovard and Travis English were influential in shaping how residents interact with the county.