Marietta begins budget hearings

MARIETTA – Marietta City Council began its annual series of budget hearings Tuesday with reviews of the Municipal Court, Health Department, Engineering and administrative departments.

Court Administrator Jason Hamilton was first at bat to cover the court’s budget.

“Usually overtime is minimal, at most we try to utilize comp time to keep that (wage figure) stable,” he said.

One question Councilwoman Cassidi Shoaf brought forward was a $30,000 figure in the “other” category under court spending.

She noted the line item covers postage mailing, computer fees and miscellaneous contingency, but asked why postage would cost so much.

“We’re trying to help with the overcrowding in the jail,” explained Hamilton, noting that the court has two options for requiring the presence of an individual before the judge. “If there is probable cause she can either authorize a summons which must be sent via certified mail, or she can issue a warrant.”

But with a warrant for arrest, at least for a day, that individual adds to the body county of the Washington County Jail, he explained.

Finance Chairman Mike Scales asked Hamilton if the court is anticipating any “absolute need” for additional personnel in 2019. Hamilton replied that despite an increase of 20 percent in caseloads due to the opioid epidemic he does not see that need at this time.

* Health Department

Registrar Sandra Hickey noted the positive outlook for the city’s health department thanks to a merger this summer between Marietta and Belpre.

“There’s potentially $55,000 coming from Belpre to pay for joint services,” she explained to council Tuesday, noting a need for Belpre City Council to authorize the spend before Marietta sees that revenue. “Part of that expense is nurses going to Belpre and also the health inspectors going down and inspecting.”

Scales noted that the merger not only will bring in additional revenue, but is predicted to save the general fund additional spends.

“It’s down from $462,000 to $378,555 and the health department will have its own fund on the first of the year for the Marietta/Belpre Health Department,” he noted.

* Engineering Department

In the Engineering Department’s budget, Scales pointed out 93.64 percent of the budget is for salaries/wages and benefits.

“They’ve cut out so much that it’s just the people cost,” he said. “I’m very pleased with that.”

Councilwoman Kathy Downer noted that in the budget this year is $13,270 for an engineering intern, a budgeted expense she said she was pleased with.

“We find it extremely beneficial not only for the intern to learn but it also helps our workload in the really busy months,” replied City Engineer Joe Tucker.

Tucker also noted a $3,500 budget for professional services, unspecified to any project.

“We carry some funds there in case we come up with a need in the year where we require a professional survey,” he explained. “We have found that to be extremely helpful.”

Scales also asked Tucker how he’s planning to leverage the additional $300,000 estimated to come in from the city’s added income tax for streets paving.

Tucker said he will be prepared for the Nov. 27 streets budget hearing with some options for council to consider.

* Other departments

Council also discussed the costs to staff the auditor’s department, mayor’s office, treasurer and it began discussion on the lands, buildings and parks budget. That discussion will continue today beginning at 2:30 p.m. in room 10 of the Armory, 241 Front St.

“That’s why we have multiple meetings, so we can come back, revisit these concerns with answers for why something was requested,” noted Scales after questions over small equipment requests came up Tuesday.

Assistant Safety-Service Director Bill Dauber said as the budget and the city’s to-date finances stood Tuesday, he’s predicting a $925,000 carry-forward balance into 2019, with a balanced budget.