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

Dilligaff

I agree, admission tax needs to be raised. Also, why are we so insistent on cutting public safety jobs and closing fire stations instead of addressing health insurance contributions and commissioner salary? They want to ask the community for help? Help us first by not giving yourselves raises.

DEATHnTAXES

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

Bogtrotter

H

Babo

I understand how Murray is beholden to Cedar Point (his law firm is Cedar Point legal counsel) but how is Westerhold beholden to Cedar Point ?(other than advertising $). Who are the owners of the SR? Are there common large stockholders in both companies?

Why don't Sandusky residents start their own referendum to place an Admissions Tax on the ballot? Raise it to 8% and lower the income tax rate to 0.5% to spur new residents and businesses.

DEATHnTAXES

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

Babo

Yes.

slightthroat212

why are you and donutshopguy so bent on beating the gongs for one of the seemingly only two options you think are out there? Have you nothing more to add than one of the two options? is there nothing more you can say than this?

T. A. Schwanger

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@Slightthroat

We are still waiting for you to describe the ideas your bother shared with commissioners months ago so we can all jump on board.

At last weeks City Commission meeting Commissioner Smith, one again, said a handful of words about economic development for Sandusky. Besides his idea of selling public park property, I'd like to know what his plans are for the APEX, Keller, Sandusky Cabinets and Wysteria Farms properties. Have you found those properties on the map yet?

slightthroat212

I waited and waited for you to answer MY questions which were never answered. My brother finally took me past the places. Geeze. Why did the city wait so long and let this stuff get this bad?????

I am not at liberty to give ANYONE anything my brother has had in the way of development. It seems a shame that after TWO years the two people who have the information have YET to bring it forth to the commissioners. Why not see if they don't have it? Just ask them after a council meeting. It seems to me that you should be able to get it from them. Or the next time you see Jack 512 on here, ask him. That is my brother. I am not giving out HIS information which would be tacky and totally wrong.

I think it wrong of you to ask ME as a matter of fact. And it wasn't months ago...it was almost two years ago, sir. I find it deplorable that your city commissioners take that long to look at suggestions. Or is it that they just don't care what the citizens think about their own city?

Bogtrotter

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SamAdams

I want explanations, too!

Reader is right: Despite residents enduring as many budget hardships as the City itself, Commissioners seem perfectly willing to increase the burden on the taxpayer, and refuse to even ACKNOWLEDGE the myriad suggestions that an admissions tax increase be considered!

JD brings up another point that officials either haven't addressed, or haven't addressed publicly. If personnel costs make up such a huge percentage of expenses, and if healthcare increases are cited as being a factor, why AREN'T increased employee contributions on the table? Union-mandated raises? That's a failure on the part of PREVIOUS administrations to be realistic during a recession and there's nothing that can be done now --- though I sure hope somebody remembers this lesson NEXT time negotiations are underway!

Matt Westerhold and other Register staff should ask the Commission these questions and hold firm until they get ANSWERS, not misdirections or platitudes.

DEATHnTAXES

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

SamAdams

Absolutely! I'll sign one in a heartbeat, and I'll help collect other signatures, too. When do I start?

donutsh0pguy

Raises were not mandated they negotiated both sides giving and taking if interested in SFD or SPD contract go to http://www.serb.ohio.gov/section... Time to raise the admissions tax. Time to free up some carryover money. Time to free up some EMS fund money. Time to quit placing people on committees that the only decisions they make are sprinkles or no sprinkles on your ice cream and that same person gave up a parking tax that Cedar Point NEVER passed the savings on to their customers. "Save City Services Tax the Tourist"

slightthroat212

why are you so bent on increasing the taxes on visitors only? Why are you not making the commissioners answser the REALLY hard questions like "why are you guys not courting new businesses into this area?" Why are you not seeking more tax inclusing business into Sandusky"? Why are you not negotiating with the unions to reduce some of these high rates of pay and insurance?

I would think in times of crisis these would be the things the commission would be thinking of instead of resting of two things only: visitor tax and people tax. Why limit it to two things and you banging the gong for one of the two?

Bogtrotter

Wh?

donutsh0pguy

Slightthroat212, Pay is based on RISK of the job and SKILL of the job. The crisis is a made up crisis you A$$ Clown the city has a $,4,000,000.00 carry over. Admission tax is not subjected to sales tax a 3% admission tax is equivalent to corporate welfare. By raising the tax you can help rebuild the city through low interest loans to business. Consider it a trickle down effect to the city by way of the tourist.

"Save City Services Tax the Tourist"

slightthroat212

Listen, Donutshopguy. What makes you think you can namecall someone???? You have some nerve!! I merely asked a question and you lose control? Are you one of the people in this town that wishes to take sole advantage of the tourists ONLY so you don't have to pay a dime????? You want your services intact but ONLY if someone else pays for it, right?

I feel sorry for you. OK, raise the tourist tax, buy all means. Put all your eggs in one basket. This nation is in trouble and you see short term fixes ONLY. This town needs a long term fix and your short sightedness doesn't see past the edge of this raise in the tourist tax. I give up trying to encourage people here to see they need a long range benefit of encouraging businesses to come here. There is not "quick fix" of course. But if you got some businesses to start coming here....even ONE...you might see some taxable income. That could lead to more.

Who is qualified to do that?? You have a city manager. She should be able to make a start at it. It should be her job to make a beginning at it. My goodness, what does she do if not some of it.

And don't EVER, sir, address me in such a manner again. I do not address you in such a manner. I do not name call you and do not expect to be addressed like that. Save your name calling for those who appreciate such things. I do not.

Babo

Sandusky needs to attract new businesses and new residents with good paying jobs not dependent on government. The City can do it by lowering or eliminating, not raising the income tax rate and shifting the tax burden to the users of infrastructure though an admissions tax.

The appearance of the city improves and the city looks like a winner and that attracts more people with positive attitudes instead of the same users who helped run the city into the ground.

No rational and successful business owner would locate his or her company and or residence in Sandusky when he or she can place the business and his or her home in a lower taxed township and let everyone keep 1% more of their income.

DGMutley

slightthroat212 said, "... I would think in times of crisis these would be the things the commission would be thinking of instead of resting of two things only: visitor tax and people tax. Why limit it to two things and you banging the gong for one of the two?"

The commission is not even considering a visitor tax, not a peep. Meanwhile our city crumbles because we allocate nearly all of our revenue sources to maintain Cedar Point's infrastructure.

This isn't the Sandusky I moved to years ago -- I want it back!

slightthroat212

Sir, do you go to meetings and state your concerns to the commissioners? If I live here permenately, I plan to. These people are supposed to represent the people of Sandusky and what they want, not their own special interests. They are servants of the people, duly elected. Perhaps its time for them to understand that fact by a show of citizens showing up and telling them so. Like it or not, that is their mission.

YouMustBeJoking

We the city residents, elect these people. And as a thank you from them, all they want to do is tax and tax and tax us residents, the same residents that helped them get their positions. We (Sandusky citizens) really need to band together, and do everything in our power to see that first and foremost, the admission tax is raised. Why in the heII, is anything other than the admission tax, even being considered? Why do they consist on TAKING from their own people? TAX THE OUTSIDERS!

Bogtrotter

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DEATHnTAXES

Observation. Since Murray and Brady were elected, the Register has acted like the two are second coming of the supreme being, especially Murray. Reporting on major Sandusky issues have ceased, except budget woes, which are subject to scrutiny.

All is well in Sandusky.

Bogtrotter

W?

donutsh0pguy

The Muray levy will fail so we can dump more money into the school levy that is coming (although approx. 90% of our property tax goes to the schools already ) so let's all jump on raising the admissions tax. "Save City Services Tax the Tourist"

donutshopguy

donutsh0pguy,

So after you tax the largest revenue business away from the area, what do you do? You have to look at the long term health of the community as well as the short sided admission tax. Not trying to be confrontational just interested in your insight.

Bogtrotter

So

donutshopguy

Bogtrotter,

No, not initially but it would take nothing to move their corporate offices. That means a few hundred well paying jobs leave the area. Be careful with corporations that make a profit. They have no loyalty. It's only about money. If Cedar Point would pack up their bags this area would be a ghost town. The hotels would close. The restaurants would close. All businesses that supply CP would close. My guess is the area would lose 10,000 to 20,000 jobs. Be careful with how you tax.

Bogtrotter

?

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