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City sees surplus as year begins

DISCUSSION — Steubenville City Manager Jim Mavromatis talks with the city’s department heads before the start of Tuesday’s meeting of City Council. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — The city started the new year with a general fund surplus of nearly $627,000, Finance Director Dave Lewis told City Council Tuesday.

In his end-of-year report, Lewis said the water and sewer funds also were positive — a $214,000 improvement in the water fund, and almost $71,000 in the sewer fund. Sanitation, however, was a little more than $303,000 in the red.

While end-of-year balances were, with the exception of sanitation, good news, Lewis pointed out the city operates on a $14 million annual budget with more than $1 million in monthly expenses.

Technically, the $627,000 general fund carryover “is money that’s available to spend,” he said, noting, “there are some projects they have in mind.”

Lewis said a $140,000 bump in income tax collections in December as well as about $221,000 in savings from general fund line items factored into the general fund carryover. Conversely, he’d warned members of council months ago the sanitation fund was operating in the red, “mainly because rates are not covering expenses each year.”

“There was some carryover money from previous years that helped offset the (sanitation) deficit,” he said. “But at some point, some adjustments will be needed to the rates.”

Lewis pointed out a previous council had years ago cut sanitation rates by $5 so it could apply an extra $5 to the water department.

“(That) just shifted it from one account to another,” he said.

Likewise, in the past council used sanitation funds to demolish dilapidated properties, “but we’ve made some changes to operations to move demolitions back to the general fund.”

“The city also got out of the commercial dumpster business in 2019 to help (ease) the deficit,” Lewis added.

“Getting out of the commercial dumpster business did (minimize) the shortfall, (but) rates are going to need some changes at some point.”

Lewis said the sanitation red ink “is not as bad as it looks, but we do need to do something.”

In other matters, 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna introduced a resolution to accept the gift of a lot next to the Pilot Station in the South End.

The owner asked only that the city cover the legal fees.

First Ward Councilwoman Asantewa Anyabwile introduced a resolution designating February as Black History Month, while Councilwoman at large Kimberly Hahn sunshined a resolution declaring the week of Jan. 26-Feb. 1 Catholic Schools Week.

Fifth Ward Councilman Willie Paul canceled a safety committee meeting he’d scheduled for Feb. 11.

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