Covington Council considers 2023 budget


COVINGTON — Ed McCord, Covington mayor, took a few moments at the Village Council meeting on Monday evening to remind residents the deadline for the home decorating contest is rapidly approaching.

Applications, which can be found on the village website, must be submitted by 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9. There will also be voting sheets available online. Judging for the various categories will be Dec. 15 through 17, with the winners being announced at the next Village Council meeting on Monday, Dec. 19. The mayor also expressed his thanks to those who assisted with the village’s Hometown Christmas celebration. There were more than 50 children who attended lunch with Santa, and a number of students participated in the coloring contest. The winners of the coloring contest will also be recognized at the next Village Council meeting.

During the village administrator’s report, Kyle Hinkelman shared the new sign was installed in front of the government center, and he has heard nothing but positive comments regarding the new sign.

“I think for us, although it is a singular thing, I think it continues to show the different efforts the village is going to redesign and re-imagine some of the amenities within our village,” he said.

The sole discussion item on the agenda was government center improvements. There have been multiple conversations over the past few months at council meetings regarding future issues and investments into the building. One improvement that will go into effect in January is a replacement of the phone and internet systems. The last substantial investment into the building was approximately $1 million in 2006, which allowed for some updates and re-configuring the building. Some of the current issues with the infrastructure of the building include water leaks, window leaks, roof, IT facility design, and security. Architect Candace Goodall has put together a rough draft of renovations so that the council has a starting point for future discussions. Potential next steps are determining priorities, a budget and to obtain an estimate.

There were five first readings, the first of which was an annual ordinance pertaining to the 2023 salaries for village employees. The ordinance authorizes a 5% cost-of-living increase and creates an easier way to see the steps within the village step-schedule for each position. The second ordinance on the agenda will amend the employee manual to sections regarding overtime, vacation policy, and retirement. The amendment will clarify the terms of police officers’ usage of vacation, sick and personal hours, and will change the vacation table so that all employees follow the same standard. This change does not impact any existing employees. The amendment’s final modification would allow a police officer with an honorable retirement to purchase any of their service weapons for $100 at retirement, which Hinkleman stated is an opportunity that many communities offer.

The third ordinance introduced the proposed 2023 budget. The budget brought before the council will show revenue, appropriations, and transfers. The council will no longer be required to approve each appropriation, as administration will be able to adjust line items as needed to accommodate village needs.

“This will make the process cleaner, smoother, and easier. The documentation on the backside will still be provided,” stated Hinkelman.

Council will still be able to see fund balances and each line item. Several of the priorities for next year’s budget include training and equipment costs for staff, particularly the police department due to expected retirements, hiring a Utility Operator II employee, replacing a police cruiser, replacing zero turn mowers, events, the Wastewater Treatment Facility, Schoolhouse Park and all its components, and Community Park.

“People … assume that if the village does something in the general fund, that means we can’t pave a road. And that is not the case. Obviously street fund is not the general fund, and the street fund is not the sewer fund,” Hinkelman said.

He went on to explain that 75% of all income tax goes into the general fund, and 25% of that goes into the street fund, making the primary source of income for the village the income tax. Water, sewer, and trash funds are driven by utility fees. The levies that feed into the general fund are dedicated to the village’s fire district. Copies of any approved budgets are available upon request to the public.

A resolution was introduced that would give the village administrator the same 5% cost-of-living salary increase as the other village employees and would extend his contract through Dec. 31, 2025.

The final resolution on the agenda would allow the village to enter into an agreement with utility GIS mapping software through Kleinfelder at a cost not to exceed $40,450. This would map all utility lines including sewer, sanitary, storm lines, water lines, hydrants, curb stops, meter pits, manholes and catch basins into digital format that can be printed out by the village or be modified as changes are made. Council waived the three-reading rule and approved the final resolution.

The next village council meeting will be held on Monday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m.

The writer is a regular contributor to Miami Valley Today and Miami Valley Sunday News.

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