BLANCHESTER —The Village of Blanchester is facing some tough economic choices.
The Blanchester finance committee met Jan. 28 and discussed the village’s currently projected deficit and what to do about it.
“We didn’t pass the tax like we really had anticipated, and we said last year if we didn’t, we’d have to look at making pretty serious cuts,” said council member Ricky Roush.
Roush and Blanchester Mayor John Carman said the responsible thing to do is to make those cuts and close the village’s deficit.
Roush suggested that council members go line item by line item with the various village departments to cut as much as possible before revisiting the idea of cutting personnel and other big-ticket items.
“If that means that the organizations that use the fields have to chip in money, so be it,” said Roush, who is president of Blanchester Youth Baseball. “And (if) the coaches have to go out and get the fields ready, that’s the way it has to be.”
Tuesday, the committee met with the parks department, at which time the committee determined it will recommend eliminating the part-time park employee’s position, according to council member Cindy Sutton, a member of the committee. Next Tuesday, the committee will meet with the streets department, Sutton said.
“We’re really concerned” and need to reduce the deficit to a livable amount, she told the News Journal.
At times, the discussion centered on a recently failed earnings tax.
Last year, a 1-percent earnings tax issue was on the ballot for Blanchester voters, who defeated it 616-437, about a 58-42 split.
“We need to figure out a way to get this out to the public,” Carman said, suggesting going door-to-door and writing letters to the editor.
“We need to come up with some kind of plan and follow that plan,” council member Lori Byrom said. “More than anything, I don’t want to see the community drop. It’s too important to too many people.”
Blanchester Police Chief Scott Reinbolt and Roush said the only way village voters might favor the tax is if they begin to feel the effects of budget cuts.
Reinbolt told the News Journal this week that “It is not responsible for the Village to continue to operate at a deficit (projected at around $100,000 for 2016) in order to avoid cutting services … the responsible move is to either increase revenue (which the voters have repeatedly rejected) or cut spending in order to balance the budget, which will require cuts in services.”
“If the citizens don’t feel a disruption in their everyday service, if it’s not broke, they’re not going to fix it,” Roush said at the Jan. 28 meeting.
Carman on Jan. 28 also presented 2013 U.S. Census data compiled by Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mark Rembert showing that more than 1,800 people in Blanchester leave the village for work, and that a majority of those working in Blanchester live outside the village.
Many of those leaving the village for work probably already pay an earnings tax and wouldn’t have to pay the village’s proposed earnings tax, according to Carman.
“This is the way to go,” he said. “A levy is only going to affect the taxpayers who are already paying for everything.”
Carman said a 4-mill property tax levy would generate $154,000. Currently, the village’s temporary budget projects a $64,000 to $68,000 deficit.
“It would help, but it still wouldn’t give the chief (Reinbolt) the money that he was asking for to try and beef up the police department,” Carman said. “And that wouldn’t give us any money for anything … for infrastructure, to get our town back to where we want to see it” or other projects.
“Without a better revenue base, we’re just continuing to put a Band-Aid on it,” Carman continued.
The issue would need to be filed by Aug. 10 at 4 p.m. for it to be on the November ballot.
The committee will also recommend that the full council amend the temporary budget by $8,500 to pay for parts and repairs to mowers and install equipment in a police cruiser. That amendment would bring the temporary budget up to $900,942.31 in expenses. Last year, Blanchester council budgeted spending less than $940,000 and it actually spent more than $884,000.
A permanent budget is due by April 1.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.