By Jane Ernsberger
Times-Junction News Editor
The City of Willard ended in better shape than anticipated when it comes to the budget. Willard City Finance Director Sue Johnson told members of city council the city collected more than $3.3 million in income tax revenues."That was $306,000 more than we had anticipated," she pointed out. "That is the most revenue we have collected since 1999 when we collected in the $4 million range." At that time, Johnson noted, the collected rate was 2.5-percent compared to the present rate of 1.375-percent. "You would expect quite a bit more with that tax rate." At the end of 2013, Johnson recalled telling council the city had fallen short on its expected income tax revenues by $145,000. "You can't always expect that," Johnson told council members. "You've got people leaving town with the pipeliners finally making their way out of town. That's probably going to affect our income tax revenues for 2015." The increase did allow for the city to give employees a raise in 2015, according to Johnson. "We do still need to continue to look at ideas to increase our revenue stream," she said. "Especially in the General Fund and the Recreation Fund. Those two funds usually are the ones that are hurting the most, and that's where most of the employees are paid from. With the water and sewer, we can just raise the rates in those areas to give a raise to employees, but the General Fund there's not enough revenues to be had for that." At the last finance committee meeting, Johnson said the decision was made to close out the Recreation Center Fund which started in 2006. There is over $4,000 in that account. "We had four donors," she noted. "I have written letters to the four donors." Johnson said she has heard from three of the donors. Her question concerns what they want the city to do with their donation since the account will be closed. "I was more than willing to refund their donations," she noted. "I have heard from three. One of them has requested $3,600 be refunded to them so they could donate it to other charities, with $412 of that balance being donated to the soccer center fund. The other two donors requested their donations be placed in the recreation fund. So, we will be putting $70 in the recreation fund." There was an ordinance waiting for council action, Johnson said, reducing the 2015 appropriations. "Several funds had carryover amounts less than what I had anticipated," she told council members. "One thing that I've learned from that is it is very, very difficult to determine what carryover amounts are going to be three or four months before the end of the year. There's always something that comes up at the end of the year." Several of those, Johnson added, concerned year end purchase order activity. "By reducing the 2015 budget, it's not going to really affect them," she said, "because I have already encoumbered those funds in 2014." Income tax postcards have been sent out, Johnson said. That information is available at the City of Willard's website. "I have also put on the city's website a list of unclaimed funds," she added. "It's alphabetical by name. "There's a claim form online that they can print out and bring in, and we will issue them their refund." Those funds are primarily people who did not claim their tax refund. Johnson said for some they only worked here and did not live here. That's five year's worth of unclaimed funds that's on our website right now." Johnson said those funds have to be held for five years. If it is unclaimed for more than five years it can be put into the General Fund. Acting city manager Shawn Tappel said he will be meeting with representatives from Mercy Willard Hospital on Jan. 26 to discuss options for street lighting on Neal Zick Road. The present cost is $1,500 per year. "There's many things going on out there," Tappel noted. "We just want to make sure we do the right thing and get this right. There's no sense rushing ourselves." Tappel said he has finished interviews for the police dispatcher position. The police officer, maintenance worker and meter reader interviews will take place this week. He expressed the city's gratitude to Van Ramsey, Panny Schaaf an Nancy Eden for giving and grading the tests. Council members will have to decide about the possibility of IBTS taking over the building codes. Tappel said this is the company that does the residential codes for the City of Willard. "When this was all set up, I think we were deciding on going with them doing everything," Tappel noted, "and taking Richland County out of the equation. I haven't got numbers yet, so I really can't make a recommendation at this time. As they give me the numbers, I will weigh all the options and give you my recommendation." Council members gave first reading to an ordinance to unappropriate $51,650 for fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2015. The follwoing were passed an emergencies: • An ordinacne fixing the wages of the recreation department employees; • An ordinance fixing wages of certain city officials, fire department and other city employees.