As a nation we have always been resilient and our people have always collaborated to do what is necessary to ensure prosperity in our country and the world. We are doing just that as a City government by making do with what we have and doing what we do with less income. Recovery has been slow but we will continue to move in a positive direction. We “keep the faith” in our federal, state and local governments. We may not always agree on how we are going to get there and it may be necessary through our ballots to make changes in government including elected officials, but we believe that in the end all levels of government will succeed. Government must remember that it represents the people because we are the people. Elected officials should faithfully, honestly and impartially govern by respecting the will of the people. We must not forget that the government belongs to the people and therefore elected officials should represent the people’s will and their best interests. We as a City are taking a positive approach. If our department heads, our elected officials or I can be of any assistance to you we are available. Feel free to contact any of us.
Budget and Staffing
This Administration has been fortunate to have a fine staff of employees and volunteers. During the past five years we have had a hiring freeze during which those who leave the City’s employment by retiring, or for any other reason, have not been replaced by new hires. We reached what we determined to be the minimum staff. Instead their duties and responsibilities have been shared by the remaining staff. This has reduced the City’s expenditures by over $1,300,000. In 2012 through 2017 we found it necessary to hire police officer replacements as we fell below the adequate minimal staffing. We as well have added three firemen Paramedics due to retirements that brought that employee number below needed staffing to fill our shifts with the minimal level. In the year 2011, our employees, including the OPBA Union (police), had agreed again to no increase in wages and benefits. This was the second consecutive year and we truly appreciate the employees agreeing with a budget that does not include an increase in wages. Therefore our cost for wages and benefits only increased for those who are automatically increased due to their length of service. Then in 2013-2014 wage increases were 1.5% and now in 2015, a zero percent increase and a 1% increase in 2016. This is saving the City hundreds of thousands of dollars, and therefore our City staff is providing the same level of services with less people and pay raises averaging 1% per year over 4 years. In 2017 and again in 2018 and 2019, 2% raises will be given our employees including our police. In 2020 2%, 2021 2.5%, 2022 2.75%.
In 2013 we received our largest collection of income taxes in our history. At the same time, we experienced major decreases in local government funds, an elimination of the Estate Tax and the CAT Tax. We finished the year 2014 with Income Tax revenues about 5% less due to refunds of 2013 taxes and a non repeat of major corporate bonuses that were given in 2013. As we entered the year 2015, our budget predicts flat revenues but we are optimistic that Economic Development agreements of 2014 will provide additional revenues although we do not reflect this in our anticipated revenues. The major loss in revenues were first realized in the year 2011 as a result of the VA closing. Therefore we had a concern for what our anticipated revenues would be for 2011 and into the years 2012-13. In the year 2010-12 the City’s withholdings of income tax held their own as new jobs were added in the community through our Economic Development Program. Our Finance Director has instructed City Council we should be guarded until such time as we fully realize the impact of the reduced revenues of the VA Hospital vs. the new jobs that will and have been created these recent past years. We also added to our concerns the fact that there was a new County Government and the new administration in Columbus. Predictions were that the municipal shares of funds from the county and state will continue to decrease placing further burdens upon our General Fund collections and our future budget.
Limited interest income, a reduction in profit tax and a reduction in county and state funding together created the very guarded and very conservative atmosphere when we considered our budget beyond 2011. Both predictions came true, but our Economic Development program made up for much of this loss along with maintaining minimal staffing and conservative spending increases including wages and benefits. In December of 2014, City Council decreased the Income Tax Credit from 100% by .25%. These added dollars will go in part to fund our Fire Department who 3.4 mill Charter property tax of 1983 no longer adequately provides the dollars needed to maintain the level of services it once did. Also included in these funds is the expansion of Recreational Facilities at Blossom Hill and the Community Center... This decrease is to sunset in ten years or once the city collects $18 million in Income Tax for three continuous years. We have reached that threshold and the sunset will conclude at year’s end 2020.
In 2019 we reached over $19,000,000 highest in our history and ended the year with a general fund balance of over $9 million dollars. We remain in the lower third of the county in property taxes after 33 years of no property tax increases, still maintaining the highest bond rating for a city of our size. In the early 90s we were ranked in the upper third for property taxes in the county. The City acquired the former VA Hospital site (103 acres) for one dollar. The development will be under the agreement between the city and the DiGeronimo Companies who will accept the responsibility to remove all 1 Million Sq. Ft of Buildings and remove all hazardous or asbestos environmental materials from the property at their cost. The Mayor represented and negotiated both agreements with City Council approval.