While some area communities are struggling to balance the budget for next year without significant cuts, the city of Chardon appears to be comfortably in the black.

While some area communities are struggling to balance the budget for next year without significant cuts, the city of Chardon appears to be comfortably in the black.

City Council recently approved the 2014 appropriations, including some high-profile capital projects and pay raises for all administrative staff.

The city's nonbargaining employees — 36 full-time, 50 part-time and 25 seasonal — will receive 2 percent "cost-of-living" increases, effective in April of the coming year. Contract negotiations with police and public service unions will open in April and July, respectively.

A continued upward trend in income tax revenues is among the reasons for the financial stability in the city that saw employee wage freezes a few years ago. Income taxes, which account for more than 73 percent of the general fund revenue, are about 3.4 percent higher this year than last.

"Everything is looking very healthy," City Manager Randy Sharpe said. "We're continuing the same level service we've had and supporting community activities up on the square."

The $7.6 million general fund budget is projected to be up $100,000 from 2013, in part, because of retirement compensation to be paid out after the planned retirements of the police chief and three municipal court employees. Chief Tim McKenna had yet to establish a retirement date.

Other notable items in the budget include funding for:

—The School Resource Officer position (with funding also contributed by the Chardon School District and Chardon Healing Fund), for a third year

—Residential sidewalk repair/maintenance program

—A new citizen-centered interactive website

—Support for Chardon Tomorrow and the Chardon Square Retail Business Grant program

—Installation of automated water/sewer meter reading equipment

Capital projects slated for construction next year are:

—Heritage House

—Maple Highlands Trail connection

—Meadowlands Drive extension/southwest sanitary trunk sewer

—North Hambden Street water main replacement

—Woodbridge Lane repair

—Tuckpointing and repair of seven cemetery piers along Park Street

Money-saving measures involve operating with one less full-time position in the finance department and continuing to do without an assistant city manager. There are no plans to fill the positions in the immediate future, Finance Director Mate Rogonjic said.

"At some point in time, we'll re-evaluate for another assistant city manager," he said. "(The manager) will come back to council with recommendation for the 2015 budget."

In addition, the decision was made to invest in maintenance of existing equipment and vehicles in lieu of buying new.

It is not yet known what affect the Affordable Care Act will have on insurance costs, as the city is just beginning the renewal process.

"We budgeted for an 8 percent increase in 2014," Rogonjic said.

"I think, overall, we're in a good position. We're still able to continue to budget to have at least a 10 percent (carryover for operating funds) in case something comes up in 2014 that we didn't anticipate. We still have reserve in payroll, operating and capital funds."

However, the general fund continues to pay a substantial amount toward retiring the debt from the water and wastewater treatment plants.

For more budget details, visit: chardon.cc/images/stories/pdf/2014budget.pdf.

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©2013 The News-Herald (Willoughby, Ohio)

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