STOW — The city now has a budget in place for the year.
Council members approved the 2020 annual appropriations budget Wednesday after approving an amendment.
The special meeting, requested by Councilman Cyle Feldman, was to discuss the budget and was attended by the seven council members, the council clerk, mayor, two city officials, the police chief, fire chief, five visitors and a member of the press. Visitors were asked questions about travel and contact before entering because of the coronavirus. Seating was spaced for everyone in the room.
The budget, which had to be approved by April 1, had a second reading, and council amended the budget to designate $350,000 in the lodging tax for economic development and not for the road program. Then council unanimously approved the annual appropriations for 2020.
The total general fund income for 2020 is estimated to be $30 million with the carryover making it $35 million. Expenses in 2020 are estimated to be $30.67 million. In 2019 revenue was $30.58 million and expenses were $29.87 million.
Council members asked the city to seek legal advice about streaming meetings while City Hall is closed. The next council meeting is scheduled for March 26, but the City Hall building is closed to the public through April 6.
Mayor John Pribonic said he declared a state of emergency on March 18 but some emails were sent from a different office and caused some confusion. The state of emergency allows city employees to work from home, take sick time without being officially sick and helps safety forces rearrange teams for safety and function.
"It would loosen up requirements," he said.
Pribonic said the city buildings, schools and activities would remain closed through April 6 when he would reassess the situation. Council members asked to be kept updated every 48 hours.
Council member Steve Hailer said everyone is in the crisis together, but there is a finish point, and everyone needs to keep their composure.
Stow Police Chief Jeff Film said they are separating officers from staff and avoiding meeting in large groups to prevent a large number of officers from becoming ill at one time.
Stow Fire Chief Mark Stone said they are keeping crews as separate as possible and would isolate a crew if they were exposed and became ill.
"We’ve never run into this situation and we need to be flexible," Pribonic said.
Although City Hall is closed, a box will be available between the entrance doors to drop off utility bills and income tax forms, he said.
The city will follow federal and state guidelines, and income tax will need to be filed by April 15 but taxpayers will have 90 days to pay the taxes.
Pribonic said he has met with 150 small businesses and will continue the effort.
"They are the backbone of the community," he said.
Previously Pribonic said the budget will have to be adjusted as needs arise because of the crisis.
The budget has a $6.3 million carryover, but Pribonic said the city wants to be fiscally responsible.
Residents can call City Hall at 330-689-2700 with questions. The phone line will be monitored over weekends. Call 9-1-1 for emergencies.
Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org