Some highlights from the Mayor’s meeting this evening.
Revenue cuts from the state level are not the only problems hitting the city. All that economizing you have been doing with you car is another part, falling car ownership and less miles driven has resulted in lower tax income to the street repair budget here in Grandview. Given the assumption that the price of gas will not fall, the tax revenue will be down long term. Repairs to the streets have slowed but can’t be put off unless we want to drive on potholed streets.
Grandview has done unexpectedly well in office occupancy levels. Most buildings are filled, and more businesses are on the way. The taxes from these offices, plus new buildings projected to be built, could put the city back in safe financial condition by 2016. This assumes that Grandview Yard will have substantial new building going on.
The new Giant Eagle is being built north of 3rd, inside Columbus. Nothing new has been announced for the Grandview part of the Yard.
Here was the puzzling part of the presentation. Some very specific numbers were projected for growth in Grandview Yard, but the Mayor had no announcements about new contracts signed for new businesses to move into the Yard. When I asked how they could make these projections for growth, without contracts, I was told there are assumptions that could be made just from the building of streets and infrastructure that NRI is in the process of putting in. In other words, if they build the streets, the buildings will come. If the office building are put up, new tenants will fill them. And the long awaited tax bonanza will shower down on the city.
I have a feeling there could be some back channel communication that the city can’t talk about due to non-disclosure agreements. Or maybe just a lot of wishful thinking.
The projected financial future looks good for Grandview, but there is a short term hole in the budget that the Mayor and council don’t feel safe leaving unfilled. By 2015 they say the cash reserves will be down to 27 days (normally the city has over 100 days on hand). The Mayor thinks there is no way to cut any more employees. So new taxes are being floated.
There is already a one mill renewal levy slated for the fall. The Mayor wants to add a new one mill tax for infrastructure, and a 1.5 mill operating tax. He didn’t speak with urgency about adding those new taxes in the fall, but said they would be needed soon. The Mayor was opposed to any raise in the income tax, he felt the city would become less competitive in luring new businesses.
He asked the 15 people at the meeting to hold up their hands if they thought the infrastructure tax should be added. A few hands went up. The operating levy got a lot of blank looks.
A new fee for trash removal was also pitched. Instead of the fee per can stickers used by U.A., he proposed a $10 per month fee, which could be added on to your water bill. The people at the meeting were not opposed to this, some though the trash was done well by the city services department and were willing to pay more for it.
Nothing was said about the possibility of outsourcing police or fire departments. The contract with the police union was just finished, failed negotiations by the city resulted in binding arbitration. As usual, the arbitrator though the city should give a three year contract that was generous to the cops. They will get 0%, 3%, 3%, with higher percentage of benefits paid by police (this is supposed to result in a effective raise of only 1%). Council member Hasty gave a mini-rant about the unfairness of the arbitration process. Nothing new there. Maybe if the city was more seriously proceeding with the planning to outsource the police to U.A. there would have been some leverage. Too late now.
The Mayor will be holding more of these meetings, TBA.
(update – the next town meeting will be on Thursday, June 7th at 7 p.m.)