South Russell Village is in the process of preparing its 2021 budget that must be submitted to the Geauga County Budget Commission this summer.

Village Fiscal Officer Danielle Romanowski told the Finance Committee on Tuesday that the hearing is set for 2:40 p.m. on Aug. 17.

“We’ve got to have a tax budget meeting right before the July council meeting,” Mrs. Romanowski explained. “Then we submit that to the county, then the county budget commission reviews everything and then we have a hearing and they let us know if they want us to approve it, not approve it, what changes they have.”

As part of the budget, Mrs. Romanowski said the village will have to estimate revenues from property and income taxes, among other sources, “because you’re not allowed to tax people to just build up money,” she said. “You have to be spending it.”

Councilman Mike Carroll said it’s too early to estimate income tax rate collections, but Mrs. Romanowski said she expects property tax rates to decrease to 95 percent compared to the average yearly estimate of 98 percent.

She sent worksheets to each department head, and will need them back by the middle of June so a spending plan can be discussed at the Village Council meeting on July 13.

Finance committee members also discussed the village’s revised credit card policy, which will soon require local government bodies to keep a single credit card locked in a safe, to be signed out by different departments whenever they need to make any purchases. This is different from the current system, in which the street, park, fire and police departments each have their own credit cards with maximum spending limits of $2,000.

“The village cannot pay sales tax, so if an employee purchases something and there’s sales tax, it’s on the employee to pay,” Mrs. Romanowski added.

The committee also touched on the idea of hiring an in-house village solicitor, who could help them deal with issues like the ongoing conversation between the South Russell Street Commission and residents of Paw Paw Road, who are looking to involve the village in overhauling their roads to meet village standards.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Carroll said that residents met with State Rep. Diane Grendell, R-Chester, via Zoom. She will be looking into different grants that can help save money for South Russell and the Paw Paw Lake community’s road project. Residents want the village to maintain the road that is now private, but it is too narrow for village equipment.

He added that, in public-private partnerships like what Paw Paw is proposing, the private entity typically drives the project with their own funds. But since Paw Paw doesn’t have funding, the situation is the reverse, he explained.

“We just have to be very cautious from a financial standpoint,” Mr. Carroll said. “I think that, unfortunately, they are in a development with a private road and there’s serious work that needs done. If there is a funding mechanism that doesn’t expose the village financially, I’m open to talking about that. At this time, we haven’t seen that, so they have to look into that themselves.”

Mr. Carroll said he didn’t know when the next meeting will take place between Paw Paw and the street commission, but South Russell’s next regular council meeting will be conducted via zoom at 7:30 p.m. on June 8.

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