Budget and tax increase update

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There was a joint Finance committee/Citizens Oversight committee meeting with City Council yesterday. Here are a few updates:

  • January General Fund revenues were $84,000 greater than expenses. Total carryover is about $300,000.
  • The closing of the Kellogg distribution center will cost the city $50,000 in lost taxes this year.
  • A change in the way the state collects business taxes will cost us another $16,000.
  • GM closing for 3 weeks will also have a negative affect but the number is not known at this time.
  • The city’s payment records for 2016 are now online at ohiocheckbook.com. 2015 will be added soon. You can search to see all payments made by the city to any entity.

As for progress made relating to the use of the tax increase:

  • Both the police and fire departments are a little behind the curve on hiring the addition staff promised. This is due to the limited number of people who have taken the Civil Service exam and qualified for the positions. Another test will be held March 4th, and more people signed up this time. The administration seems confident that they will hit their targets this year, but they intend to be selective and not just hire anyone who happens to pass the test. “We are moving with all deliberate speed, but our top priority is to hire good people,” said Mayor Franklin.

The longest discussion related to street repair. The city has budgeted $500,000 for street repair in 2017. There is normally no budget at all for this out of the General Fund. A couple of years ago the bond issue raised $2.5 million for repairs, but that has all been spent.

City Engineer Paul Makosky said he is able to get all the city’s main thoroughfares maintained using a combination of state and federal funds, but most of Warren’s other 185 miles of streets have had no regular repair budget for some time.

Makosky says those streets need to be resurfaced every 15 years, and to do so requires an annual expenditure of about $1 million at an estimated cost of about $175,000 per mile per 2 lane street. So the half million is clearly not enough to do what is needed.

Makosky will give the Mayor a list of the streets most in need of work by the end of this month. The Mayor will make the final decision on which streets get attention. Many streets in clear need of work will not make the cut. The Mayor specifically promised to work on the list based on need, but said some adjustments will be made based on the population and/or the traffic of a given street.

There followed a pretty funny exchange among council members about whether Makosky would be using “west side asphalt or east side asphalt” — an inside joke born of someone complaining at council a few years ago that the city uses an inferior grade of asphalt to fill west side potholes. Makosky assured everyone that the city only buys one grade — the best available.

For anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the cost and issues surrounding street repairs in Warren, Makosky has prepared a “Street Resurfacing and Maintenance Program Financial Planning Report.” It’s an inch thick and filled with charts, maps, photos and details. It is too costly to pass out to anyone who wants one, but Makosky is hoping to get it on line soon, or you can visit the engineer’s office at 540 Laird S.E., and examine a copy there.

Finally, the last whole ten minutes was devoted to the topic of economic development, because, of course, it is our last priority given how strong the local economy is today. As always the conversation focused on “solutions,” since it is our practice to skip over any discussion of the nature of the problem or the setting of goals, which many organizations find useful to discuss prior to identifying a solution.

Some days I am low on hope.

Posted Thursday, February 16th, 2017 under Budget.

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