Budget woes far from over

“If you thought 2014 was tough, wait until you look around the corner”
Andy Ouriel
Mar 12, 2014
The financial pinch Sandusky officials just faced seems small compared to an economic catastrophe headed their way.

“If you thought 2014 was tough, wait until you look around the corner,” Sandusky ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. said.   Projections on the city’s budget, funding day-to-day services, show Sandusky generating about a $1 million shortfall over the next two years.

The city’s revenues remain flat, hovering at about $16.2 million, in 2015 and 2016.

But costs continue to spike over this period, with estimated expenses totaling about $16.7 million in 2015 and $16.9 million in 2016.

The cause of the surge: rising health insurance costs, unionmandated raises for police officers and firefighters and other expenses.

City commissioners seemed defeated when analyzing the figures. In February, they completed a process in which they slashed $1.1 million in services to balance the budget.

The cuts forced officials to reduce many services, including:

•Eliminating four full-time firefighter positions.

•Closing the Venice Road fire station for six months, beginning in May.

•Axing various recreation programs.

Municipal governments such as Sandusky must have a balanced budget by March of each year. Up to 80 percent of Sandusky’s everyday operating budget covers salaries.

To offset the budget — and to avoid other financial shortfalls in upcoming years — commissioners must consider further downsizing staffing levels.

Layoffs are a common practice in Sandusky.

Case in point: The city’s full-time staffing levels have plummeted, from 291 in 2004 to 212 as of this past December.

“We can’t wait eight months to start discussing the next budget,” commissioner Dick Brady said. “We need to start discussing it today. There are only so many things you can cut. We’ve done the hard things. We’ve cut expenses. Now we need to find ways to generate more revenue”

At a recent public meeting, commissioners discussed possible ways to generate more money in hopes of offsetting the projected increase in expenses.

Many voiced support for a levy if, and only if, commissioners specifically dedicate these funds toward a certain purpose.

“The projections look grim,” commissioner Scott Schell said. “But I have talked with people throughout the community, and we agree that if (commissioners) can be specific and identify what we are going to attack, whether it’s safety services or to fix streets, then I think, by in large, people would support that”

If officials do proceed with a levy, they must be clear in their overall campaign message, commissioner Naomi Twine said.

“Starting these conversations with the public is very important,” Twine said. “The feedback that I am getting is that we need to share information to receive information back from the public”

If layoffs occur, they’d surely hit fire and police operations the hardest. The two departments today eat up about $10 million of the city’s $16.3 million operating budget.

“If we don’t make a move and get some revenue into the city, then we are going to have to make layoffs in both the police and fire departments next year,” commissioner Julie Farrar said. “I don’t see this going anywhere good unless we make some sort of move, go to the community and ask for help”

Some residents at the meeting offered their support for a levy.

“I really believe the city has made as many cuts as possible,” 42nd Street resident Timothy Work said.

Said Third Street resident Mark Norman: “If you could give us a vision that we could believe in that would carry us forward, that will make a huge difference for this community. Marketing comes down to education”

Comments

reader

I wish the commissioners would explain why our city deserves a much smaller admission tax than other tourist destinations.

DEATHnTAXES

Reader--Are you prepared for involvement in a petition to raise the admissions tax?

donutsh0pguy

I'm ready just tell me where to sign up "Save City Services Tax the Tourist"

reader

Yes I will gladly sign a petition and help collect signatures.

DGMutley

I'm in!

Bogtrotter

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reader

The city has shown the need for more revenue. Cuts in funding from the state, the elimination of the estate tax, increase in the number of retirees not earning an income....all have been part of the cause.

The decrease in the number of city employees shows the city has cut to the bone to cut expenses.

The transformation of the local economy from an industry based employment to lower paying retail, food service, and hospitality has left any increase in taxes paid for by residents unlikely to be approved by the voters.

We deserve decent streets, nice parks, a pleasant street scape in our neighborhoods, and continued excellent safety service protection.

The burden of paying for these quality of life items has to be shared more fully by those who visit our city.

JD's picture
JD

Also why have they not increased employees contribution to the health care. All companys have done this to offset the rising cost of health insurance.

donutsh0pguy

They did raise the employees contribution to the health care along with employees contributions to the pension. http://www.serb.ohio.gov/section...

JD's picture
JD

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donutsh0pguy

Did you take the test to get on SFD or SPD? Apples and oranges unless you post your exact job and what your earn, how can one compare this. Is your job one of the riskiest jobs in the nation?

JD's picture
JD

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JD's picture
JD

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JD's picture
JD

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donutsh0pguy

You have to compare apples to apples if you compare them to departments their size then the deal isn't all that good. Again you tell only some of the story
1. The readers know what their job is but you have yet to tell the readers yours.
2. Their contract is posted the readers have no idea what you make we know you pay so much toward your insurance but we don't know how many hours you work or how dangerous your job is.

JD's picture
JD

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donutsh0pguy

WHAT?? The job they have they shouldn't have insurance what is wrong with you do you just talk to hear yourself talk. Do you even know the stress's these guys deal with. Like I said you have yet to tell the readers what your job is. These guys have insurance because that is part of the package they have. Some jobs offer great pay, but you pay higher insunce. These guys pay the same taxes you do. I think it's a shame they would have to come to someone like you to ask for a handout JD (Just a DumbA$$)

slightthroat212

JD....I agree with you. More and more companies are making their employees pay a portion or all of their own insurance premiums plus their deductibles which are sky high. Ours where terrible....$2000 before anything was paid each year and then insurance paid. That is what the package paid and we each paid so much a week on our own premiums. Standard procedure for our plan...which was GOOD INSURANCE. No one pays all the insurance anymore it just isn't done. No employer can afford to. Old school USED to do that, not anymore. No employer in their right mind would pay your insurance unless they wanted to go bankrupt in one year with 10 employees.

JD's picture
JD

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donutsh0pguy

Where you work has a lot to do with it. You are making this personal because someone has something you don't.

Ok using your logic instead of making $20,000.00 year as middle management in a factory you should be making $15,080 a year ($7.25/hr. x 40 =$290 x 52 weeks= $15,080)the same as a worker at McDonalds. Most places in America base wages on the level of skill of their workers.

For years most local governments did not have a problem paying their workers health insurance because it was cheaper then giving them raises or at least lower raises. Is it fair for police or firefighters all of a sudden to pay for the brunt of the so called budget crisis so called because the city has over $4,000,000.00 carry over and why do they have this carry over because of concessions the last contract the city workers gave up.

"Save City Services Tax the Tourist"

JD's picture
JD

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donutsh0pguy

So this is all about you not getting hired as a fireman or a cop now it is all clear why you are so angry.

I think they should get paid what they are worth and I think they are getting paid fine. I never made their job sound bad I just said it is one of the most stressful jobs in the nation and they should get paid appropriately. Quit getting so stuck on the insurance issue it is what it is. Riddle me this one A$$ Clown why should you a mid level management guy at a factory make more then a person working at McDonalds??

JD's picture
JD

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donutsh0pguy

A$$ Clown, you wrote this

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 8:50pm
All am saying is that they should have to pay for their insurance like the rest of us. They are not better than the rest of us. What I do for a living has nothing to do with the subject. But if you must know I work in a factory as middle management.

Second of all thank you for your service to your country.

Since you brought it up an Army E8 with 30 years of service makes $5,411.00 a month x 12 = wait for it $64,932.00 a year. Way more then Police or Fire in this city. I used thirty because you referenced that number in previous post. Oh yeah lets not forget the free health insurance and housing allowance. By the way A$$ Clown when you were serving who do you think was paying your salary through taxes? We were!!

"Save City Services Tax the Tourist"

JD's picture
JD

?

donutsh0pguy

So now I am ignorant because I call you out on being a hypocrite? You are the ignorant one going after city workers for what they make yet you were in the service getting paid by the taxpayers. I have a good life debunking A$$ Clowns like yourself on this site.

Although we may have many differences I sincerely thank you for your services to our country.

"Save City Services Tax the Tourist"

doppleganger

I will vote no for any new tax increase until they increase the admission tax. Every person I have talked to would like to see the admission tax increased. It has been far too long. I can tell you from my own personal experience; if I am going to go to an amusement park and it costs $49, I will not blink an eye if is an extra few dollars. You are on vacation and you expect to pay. Cedar Point does not pay the admission tax, the customers do. What is so hard for these commissioners to understand? Exactly how many people has this brand new commissioner talked to? Not enough, obviously.

DEATHnTAXES

Are you prepared for involvement in a petition to raise the admissions tax?

doppleganger

yes

bayshore

Does the city and county even have an economic planning committee that is responsible for helping local businesses grow as well as researching industries that would be successful in our area? There will probably never be a plant the size of New Departure or Ford being built in the area but smaller manufacturing plants can create quite an economic impact. There has to be a mix of industry to be successful. Take a look towards Bellevue. The combination of the railroad, agriculture, and small manufacturing facilities provide a stable community. The Sandusky County side of Bellevue and other cities in Sandusky County have developed industrial parks and attracted or expanded businesses in those locations. Areas around Bowling Green, Perrysburg, Tiffin, and Rossford have followed similar paths. The former Rossford Army Depot is now Ampoint Industrial Park with a mix of small manufacturing, distribution centers and Owens Community College. Just west of Port Clinton is the former Erie Army Depot,virtually empty, and a few miles away is the Ottawa County created Lake Winds Industrial Park with maybe 40% occupancy. Instead of Ottawa County working to utilize the property available at Erie they spent taxpayer money to purchase farmland to create a new industrial area next to the fairgrounds. Poor planning by former Commissioners serving their inflated egos.

Communicate the vision you want for the city. The people are sick of the "build it they will come" dreams, they want to support a viable plan. Listen to ideas submitted by your citizens and incorporate them in your plans. Some solutions to current problems have already been expressed.
Plan your concerts at the Marina, make changes to boat dock electrical service, open the boat ramps and recruit the local businesses and civic groups to sponsor, work at and take responsibility for a successful outcome. Ensure that proper recognition is given.

Sandusky can, again, be a great place to live and work when people become part of the solution.

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