Sandusky finances steady; city officials hope for upturn

No better and no worse. That's the picture the city's finances painted in April, with income tax revenues -- the main driving economic force -- still down 10.3 percent. Although nationally the United States added 290,000 jobs in April, and has added jobs four straight months, the improvement hasn't trickled down to Sandusky.
Jason Singer
May 12, 2010

No better and no worse.

That's the picture the city's finances painted in April, with income tax revenues -- the main driving economic force -- still down 10.3 percent.

Although nationally the United States added 290,000 jobs in April, and has added jobs four straight months, the improvement hasn't trickled down to Sandusky.

Hank Solowiej, the city's finance director, believes it will get here, but cannot predict when.

"We've always been a little slow to get hit with things, and a little slower to recover," Solowiej said.

"We're still concerned with local factories trying to hold onto people and not shedding jobs. We obviously hope they will still start hiring and bring back employees, and we hope it's sooner than later ... But it's not something we can predict or have a crystal ball to look into."

The city laid off dozens of employees earlier this year and will lay off more in June as part of an effort to approve a balanced budget.

It began the year with $2.85 million and hoped to keep it that way after a tumultuous 2009 when it lost $843,000.

But if income tax remains down 10.3 percent, the city would lose an additional $228,000 in 2010, finishing with $2.6 million.

That's assuming hotel/motel and admissions revenues meet their projected numbers.

Through April, hotel/ motel revenues are down 6 percent and admissions revenues are down 12 percent. Both were projected to be down only 5 percent in 2010.

Solowiej said he'll wait until the middle of summer, however, before reaching any conclusions about hotel/motel and admissions revenues.

"It's too early to get too excited about those percentages," he said.

The city's finance department has kept city officials apprised of Sandusky's struggling revenues throughout the year.

On multiple occasions, interim city manager Don Icsman and ex officio mayor Dan Kaman said the city hoped it laid off too many people and would be able to rehire some of the affected workers.

"Now it looks like we may have laid off too few," Kaman said.

Icsman said officials are constantly monitoring the city's revenues. If it looks as if the budget is going to come close to being balanced -- say within $10,000 or $20,000 -- he wouldn't recommend any other changes.

But if summer arrives and the city appears hundreds of thousands of dollars short of having a balanced budget for 2010, Icsman said he'll ask the city commission to re-evalute the situation.