Here are my notes from last night’s meetings, which were short and mainly uneventful:
Police cruiser maintenance – Council approved an increase in 2014 police cruiser maintenance, from $40k to $49k. In spite of this increase, the program instituted by the city in the past five years has been quite successful in keeping a safe and usable fleet of cruisers on the road. We are also saving money on maintenance. We strive to keep cruisers on the road for a maximum of 4-5 years, with a cap of 80k-100k miles.
Fox Den personnel – Council also approved the renewal of contracts for the head groundskeeper and head golf pro. I have made it no secret that Fox Den is the city’s most cumbersome albatross. But I will readily admit that the course has gotten on track the past few years operationally. It has cut salaries paid to managers almost in half. To be clear: I still want the city to sell Fox Den, but until that day comes, it needs to be consistently profitable (not considering the debt service).
Halloween – Trick-or-Treat in Stow will be Saturday, Nov. 1 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
News from the Service Department – Road repairs are being conducted on Hibbard, Darby and Fishcreek … The Graham Road project looks to be on schedule and under budget … A proposal by Councilman Adaska to have a sound wall construed on Route 8, adjacent to Treeside Drive, has been approved for for grant money, but the project will be on a waiting list for that funding … Leaf pickup begins on Monday. Check Stow’s Web site for details: http://stowohio.org/leaf-pickup/.
Next meeting – Council will meet next on November 20.
Here are my notes from tonight’s council meeting:
Budget update – I asked our Finance Department to update council and the taxpayers as to the status of our revenue and expenditures through the third quarter of 2014. In short, revenues are down and expenditures are up, when compared to our initial budget, passed in December, which projected a $148,000 deficit. That deficit could be double.
Expenses are fairly stable, but Stow has spent more money than expected because of overtime, as I explained in my previous post.
Revenue is down about 1 percent. The reason could be, however, that some businesses have not yet filed their net profits returns, which are due at the end of this month. The withholding taxes (i.e. taxes on employee salaries) have been steady when compared to last year. It appears that the loss of MACtac jobs has been offset by some minor gains. The effect of the closing of the MACtac plant will be amplified next year, however.
I will soon sit down with the Finance Department and Council President Matt Riehl to address the 2015 budget. Tough decisions are ahead. Along with the factors influencing the 2014 budget, the city will also analyze the effects of a minor boost from reimbursements of worker’s compensation premium overpayments and a minor setback in property tax revenue (valuations are down).
If you’re looking for some good news, the city deserves some major credit for reducing the city’s debt load from $33.6 million to $21.6 million, about 36 percent, since 2008. Why? Council has not approved any new borrowing since 2011 and the Finance Department has strategically refinanced and paid down notes and bonds.
Stow Clerk technology- Judge Kim Hoover and Clerk of Courts Kevin Coughlin requested council to approve $192,574.50 to purchase software. There will also be an annual service charge of about $49,000 per year. The court will pay for these costs through its Computer Fee of $13, assessed to each case on the docket. As a litigator, I can tell you that this software is a much needed purchase. It will significantly reduce workload in the Clerk’s office and their reliance on paper records. Judge Hoover wisely waited until the costs became more manageable (from $750K to $192K).
In other court news, Stow filled a much-discussed vacant property when Panini’s opened on Saturday at the former Damon’s restaurant, near the court house.
Storm water matters- Two pieces of storm-water legislation were cleared off the agenda tonight. First, John Pribonic withdrew his proposal to raise storm water fees by $3 per month on each household. He cited an effort of several communities to collaborate to solve the problem.
Meanwhile, council passed, by a 5-2 vote (Pribonic, Costello), a proposal by Brian Lowdermilk to give more residents the financial capacity to remediate “illegal tie-ins” between their downspouts and the sanitary sewer. These tie-ins result in backflows of sewage, and are considered illegal by the EPA. Under this program, Stow will dedicate up to $75K per year to grants to residents, of no more than $500 apiece, to repair the tie-in. The funds will be drawn from the storm-water fund. Of equal importance, residents may choose to have the balance of the costs assessed to their property, over either a 10- or 15-year period.
I believe this is a prudent use of taxpayer dollars. I have seen many residents deal with sewage backup. It’s devastating. But it’s often curable. In passing this, council has given residents without liquid assets the ability to avoid substantial non-insured and recurring losses. Kudos to Brian for pushing this program.
Council will meet next on October 23.