- Denise G. Callahan Staff Writer
Monroe City Council is poised to pass a $12.3 million general fund budget for next year, one that represents a 3.1 percent decrease from this year.
A big part of the reduction, according to the budget document, is the city has spent a good deal time, effort and money making renovations to its city hall. The next biggest projects of that kind involve coming up with a plan to give the police some space relief.
“The police right now they are kind of busting at the seams,” City Manager Bill Brock said. “This building was not designed for police departments of today; those facilities are 16 or 217 years old. That’s the real driver in my mind.”
The city’s police department headquarters was built in 1999 to house 18 police staffers. The building is now home to 40 employees, according to the chief.
Assistant City Manager Kasey Waggaman said city hall renovations — they ran out of office space and had office sharing going on before the transformation — cost $205,369, and the city is starting a facilities study for every department in the city.
The police and fire departments embarked on a joint project to see if it makes sense to co-locate. Eventually the fire department will need to have a presence on the eastern edge of town.
Brock said the actual construction involved with a major facilities project will be a couple years off.
“Those won’t be budgeted until ‘18 or ‘19 I would imagine, that we would begin actual construction,” he said. “We have to figure out where the money is coming from first.”
A couple areas that are showing budget increases for next year involve safety services. The city will be hiring seven additional firefighters next year, courtesy of a $1 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant. It’s a two-year grant but the city has determined it can shoulder the extra cost when the grant ends.
“We looked at the funding and where we think we’ll be at the end of that grant cycle, and it was believed the budget would support continuing those positions…,” Fire Chief John Centers told the Journal-News previously. “It was agreed that we would continue to fund those positions and we were capable of funding those positions.”
Non-competitive dispatch salaries also prompted the city to bump up pay by potentially as high as nine percent, and they agreed to hire a supervisor and turned two part-time positions to full-time. That department will shoulder a 24 percent increase in personnel costs next year.
Employees will get three percent cost of living increases next year, but Waggaman said Brock has not announced the range of money available for merit pay. This year it was zero to five percent.
The city is also working to expand bus service to their business hubs, just like the one that recently opened up to the Kohls facility. They are developing plans for more development on the Great Miami Rive trail system and a housing study.
Next year will also be a year-long bicentennial celebration.
“We have $175,000 for the bicentennial,” Brock said. “Which includes a year’s worth of events. Fund raising is going on right now, and I think they’d like to double that number with donations.”