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Steubenville council talks city finances

STEUBENVILLE — While the numbers aren’t final, Steubenville Finance Director Dave Lewis told council Tuesday the city is ending 2020 in a better position than anyone expected.

Lewis, though, said the rosier-than-anticipated projection has nothing to do with tax revenues — those are still lagging behind projections because of the pandemic and the impact it’s had on business and employment.

Rather, he said the city recently received $1.5 million in rebates from the state of Ohio, stabilizing 2020’s year-end numbers, while a reduction in health insurance costs will shore up the 2021 budget.

“We’ll know more next week,” Lewis said after council’s weekly business meeting. “But it looks like we’re going to have a balanced budget in 2021 — the general fund will be balanced, the water and sewer funds will be balanced, though the sanitation fund currently looks to be in the red.”

Lewis said the city had been “struggling” because of the lost tax revenues, and until all the adjustments are in, his staff couldn’t close the books on 2020.

“The final numbers we need to finalize the budget will come in tomorrow,” he told council. “We’ve been waiting for the last few adjustments and the payroll that goes out Friday to come in. We’re planning to spend the rest of the week working on (the financial report). But the budget doesn’t look too bad at this point.”

Fifth Ward Councilman Willie Paul called for a finance committee meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. so council can go over the 2020 year-end report and review the proposed spending plan for 2021.

Since the new budget has to be in place by Jan. 1, Paul said they’d still have time to consider emergency budget legislation — something 2nd Ward Councilman Willie Paul has repeatedly said he is loathe to do.

Petrella balked at delaying the finance committee meeting beyond Dec. 8

“After we concluded our (budget) hearings, I think it was the consensus of council we wanted to meet one more time, see what we had and go over what we can and can’t do,” he said. ” I know a couple people, including myself, who had problems with what some of the departments presented to us.”

Third Ward Councilman Eric Timmons, meanwhile, applauded the street department’s efforts in keeping city streets clear following the first winter storm of the season.

“I think (they) did a very nice job last night into today, cleaning the roads,” he said. “I’m always quick to complain (when I see something wrong), but if something’s good I’m going to say that, too.”

Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna, chair of council’s economic development committee, urged residents to shop local and shop small.

“A lot of little shops have sprung up at the mall, also at Hollywood Plaza,” he said. “We tend to talk about downtown all the time and forget about the mall and Hollywood Plaza. Keep that in mind when you do your Christmas shopping, stop in and keep them open.”

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