State of West Unity

West Unity Mayor Don Leu gave a State of West Unity update to the village council on Thursday, saying things are going well with several projects and community engagement completed in 2021.

WEST UNITY — Fiscally, West Unity had a great year.

Fiscal Officer Sara Higdon gave a year-end update to the village council during their meeting Thursday evening, providing graphs to show the minor details of how the village finances looked.

Overall, the village is in a good position, with revenues exceeding expenses by $619,190.87.

“Overall, for the whole year, we spent about 36% less than what we brought in,” Higdon said.

All the departments spent less than they brought in, with the exception of parks, which spent $38,561.17 but only brought in $30,804.54.

That will likely change in the future, as aspects of the fund are changing.

Village Administrator Josh Fritsch said an employee used to get paid partially from the park fund but that was changed this year. Park benches that are half paid for already also come out of that fund, skewing the number a bit, too.

Around $10,000 were spent on benches last year.

“This next year ... we’ll spend less than we bring in,” Fritsch said.

Appropriations versus expenditures were also on the positive side, with no department spending more than what was appropriated.

All in all, the village appropriated $2.66 million over 11 departments but they only spent $1.71 million.

Capital projects had the biggest savings, spending only $339,877.83 out of the appropriated $872,515.

“The reason that looks the way it does is we didn’t do one of the projects,” Higdon said. “The grants didn’t come through, so that’s really kind of misleading there in some aspects. We didn’t get the project done, so there was no spending there.”

Fritsch attributed this trend to a changing mindset.

People no longer feel the need to spend their entire appropriated budget for fear of getting less money the next year, he said.

“People understand that, yeah, we do budget certain amounts and if you don’t use it, you don’t need it,” Fritsch said. “But, you guys have still budgeted off what you had before because some years we do need it. I don’t know if it’s because of COVID and we had to do that in ‘19 and ‘20, but I like the way it’s gone.”

Having a cushion, Police Chief J.R. Jones said, is appreciated.

When it came to overall revenue, the village brought in $1.9 million, up around $267,000 from 2020.

Higdon said comparisons to 2020 are not necessarily fair due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, she also gave the numbers from 2019, a more normal year, for a better comparison.

The data show the village recovered in some areas from the low 2020, namely in income tax. In 2019, the village collected $891,000, which dipped to $742,000 in 2020 but grew nearly 23% to $964,000 in 2021.

Gas tax money has increased the last three years, as has local government funding. Property taxes have remained relatively stagnant and water/sewer revenue is back up after a dip in 2020.

Following Higdon’s report, Mayor Don Leu gave a State of West Unity update to the council that was also positive.

“Last year, we saw East End Park receive a new swing set for the children,” he said. “We received a State of Ohio grant for a splash pad that should be installed this spring at Memorial Park. Along with that, we received an Ohio NatureWorks grant for a new piece of playground equipment that will be placed near the splash pad this spring.”

The village, Leu continued, also received a grant to fix an old water line and a storm sewer line it installed on West Jackson Street to alleviate flooding in the area.

The “Lights in the Park” Christmas display had more participants this year.

“I’ve already been told of more participation for this coming year, along with lights in other areas of the park,” he said. “Hundreds of cars went through the lights in the park this year, making the second year a great success.”

In other business, council:

• Had an executive session to discuss personnel and acquisition of property. Following the meeting, council hired Steven Riley Jr. as a full-time officer, also passing resolutions to confirm the hire and his annual salary of $37,340.16.

• Passed a resolution to allow Fritsch to sell village property at an online auction.

• Passed a resolution allowing Fritsch to participate in the State of Ohio Cooperative Purchasing Program. Leu said this was needed to purchase the splash pad.

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