Conservation trims FY15 budget

A last-minute budget discussion was the topic for a special meeting of the Hamilton County Conservation Board on Thursday morning.

The board met to discuss $35,481 that had to either be cut from expenses or made up in revenue for Conservation’s budget for the 2015 fiscal year. Hamilton County Conservation Executive Director Brian Lammers said the county wanted the budget submitted by noon on Thursday.

There are several contributing factors that caused the financial gap. In the 2015 fiscal year, there are 27 pay periods. During most years, there are 26 pay periods. Additionally, Lammers said Conservation had to figure in a cost of living increase for its employees.

“The only pay options we have are through merit and cost of living adjustments set by the county,” Lammers said.

However, Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Wes Sweedler said at the meeting that the county does not currently know how much that cost of living adjustment will be. Lammers and other board members looked at the budget with an estimated cost of living adjustment percentage.

Other expenses the board had to consider included an increase in utility costs and water. Lammers said the expenses are the cost of doing regular business for Conservation.

At the meeting, Board Vice President George Caggiano made a motion to delay payment to Conservation’s legacy fund for one fiscal year. The legacy fund, according to Lammers, is an internal account that Conservation uses for revenue producing projects. Conservation pays the fund about $23,000 each year. However, interest will still have to be paid on the fund. In total, the motion which was unanimously approved by the board will free up $20,800 in Conservation’s budget.

“The rest, [Conservation officials] will have to come up with but they need to submit a balanced budget,” Caggiano said.

The board’s action left Conservation with about $15,000 to fill by either cutting expenses or increasing revenues in their budget. Lammers said that $6,000 is expected to be cut for general operations across all county parks. Additionally, $8,681 is expected to be cut for Briggs Woods Golf Course and Clubhouse operations. Lammers said those numbers are not final.

During Thursday’s meeting, the board also welcomed new Board Member Diane Sinclair. Sweedler administered her oath of office. Sinclair said a printmaking and art activities class for grandparents through the Legacy Learning Center at Briggs Woods Park.