Athens City Council delays its dues payment for the operator of the Baileys Trail System

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — The organization that operates the Baileys Trail System will not receive it’s annual funding from the city of Athens until the city’s financial situation improves.

The City Council was close to approving $90,000 in membership dues for the Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia at Monday night’s meeting, despite warnings from the city’s auditor about the budget.

But Council Member Alan Swank proposed an amendment that would delay the funding. The amendment says the city can’t pay the dues until its financial reserves get back up to a certain point.

Athens has been dealing with budget difficulties over the past couple of months, triggering a hiring freeze in March and a warning from City Auditor Kathy Hecht to keep a lid on spending.

The city’s cash reserve balance is supposed to stay at 7.5% or above. That number currently sits at 5.93%. The low balance is due in part to a series of unanticipated medical expenses last year.

Swank said he proposed the amendment to align with Hecht’s request.

“A while back, the city auditor sent to council an email asking us not to spend any money on nonessential services until we had gotten our reserve fund up to 9%,” Swank said. “So my amendment takes a step further and specifically says when we can pay it.”

The amendment requires the cash reserve balance to get back to 9% before the $90,000 in dues is paid.

Hecht said she supports the amendment and explained that reserves are important for essential and unplanned expenses. She said “9% is not unreasonable,” but she doesn’t know when or even if the city will get to that balance.

The council will take up the ordinance again in two weeks. Because the ordinance was amended, it goes back for a first reading. Ordinances require three readings before they can be passed.

This delay on the city’s ORCA dues follows a decision by Athens County to withhold its $90,000 dues payment this year.