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

Babo

You just made an excellent point of why the City should raise the Admissions Tax to 8% the most by law and eliminate the Income tax. Cedar Point HQ would not move to a lower taxed area because all those highly paid people would not pay any income taxes in Sandusky!

And Cedar Point is not going to dismantle the park and move it. That's ludicrous.

DGMutley

Props!

donutsh0pguy

Disney world just increased their ticket prices $4 will people still go? Yes
Cleveland has a 8% admission tax will people still go to see the Indians, Browns, and Cavs lose? Yes.
The park in Canada tax 7% and Carowinds has a 5% admission tax has Cedar Fair quit investing in them? Let's go to the magic eight ball on this one #ell NO!
Admission tax is not the long term solution that my friend comes from the elected officials. By making the landlords held accountable and forcing the undesirables out of the city. By attracting people and business to a safe city.

Bogtrotter

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DGMutley

from donutshopguy to 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."

If they leave the area then we don't have the problems we face now. Why do you suppose we are spending 16 mil a year? Cedar Point! Time for them to ante up!

reader

An increase in the admission tax to 6 or 8 % is not going to make Cedar Point leave the city. And those rates are well within the bounds of reasonable rates as compared to other cities.

reader

An increase in the admissions tax can fund street maintenance and improvement, recreation and parks, safety services, tree trimming and planting. Those are the quality of life issues that will make Sandusky an appealing place to live, work, and play.

reader

Closing the west side fire station is risking lives. When you have a fire or health incident minutes count.

Placing an admissions tax increase on the ballot to take effect next January 1st would allow the city to borrow from the fire equipment fund to keep our fire department staffed this year and repay that fund next year with the increased revenue.

reader

Is the city hoping all the renters in town will support a property tax increase?

Renters need to keep in mind the increased expense to the landlord will result in higher rents. And the school system is looking to place a levy on the fall ballot.

DGMutley

A levy will never fly unless the city income tax is lowered or eliminated.

Why would we even consider doing that though when the largest user of our services is unwilling to contribute?

donutshopguy

You are biting the hand that feeds you. Be careful.

reader

Please explain.

Asking visitors to our city to pay an admission tax rate more on a level of that paid elsewhere hardly seems unfair.

donutsh0pguy

Time for the corporate welfare recipient's to pay their share. THEY DON'T PAY A SALES TAX ON THE ADMISSION SALES!

When the city rescinded the parking tax did Cedar Point pass this savings on to it's customers? NO!!

Could Cedar Point be the next Geauga Lake, highly unlikely and why? It's all about location, location, location.

So instead of you being a little monkey for the corporate welfare recipients why don't you start backing the citizens of Sandusky or stay in Huron and mind your own business!

"Save City Services Tax the Tourist"

Babo

And here's an interesting point: Governor Kasich wants to reduce the overall state sales tax rate by adding sales tax to services that are not presently subject to sales taxes like Amusement Parks and law firm revenues.

If he is successful that means tourists will pay more in sales tax to the state and county than they do to the city that has to bear the burden of providing the services.

Raise the Admissions Tax now to 8% like Cleveland and most other world class amusement cities. Keep the money here instead of sending it to Columbus.

DGMutley

Good point! Use it or lose it.

Dr. Information

Raise the admission tax and don't fix the problems and Sandusky will be right back in the same spot really soon. What then, tax cedar point to the point where it actually hurts the city. People are broke.

donutsh0pguy

Dr. MISINFORMATION please explain how the city would be in the same spot REALLY SOON? The city has cut staffing. The corporate welfare giant pays a 3% admission tax. Talk about doom and gloom. Better not ask them to pay their fair share or they may pack up and leave.. fine here is a plan admission tax raised to the sales tax rate at 1% a year till that goal is reached. A .50% income tax increase. Start tossing the undesirable's out of town by making the landlords accountable.

"Save City Services TAX the Tourist"

Bogtrotter

T

Dr. Information

Give them more money and they will blow through it in no time (Example, our government). Trust me, 4 million extra in revenue will not be saved or partially saved for a rainy day fund. They will blow it all with raises, new equipment, new this and new that and not factor in upkeep etc and 5 years down the road they will need more.

DGMutley

Rainy day fund? It's going to be raining on the west side starting in May. I hope the Cedar Point traffic doesn't cost someone their life!

DGMutley

Edit to Fri. message:

It will cost someone their life!

donutshopguy

I will bet anyone, however much they want, that if the city raises the admission tax, to whatever amount, it will not be enough money. Anyone willing to bet?

Bogtrotter

E

DGMutley

C'mon Donut,

I thought you were fiscal savvy. Services need to be restored. People need to be hired back. Equipment needs to be replaced or maintained. $1 worth of 2000 dollars is now worth $1.36. That 16 million dollar budget in 2000 should have been almost 22 million dollars now! That's with 2009 having negative inflation.

We've needed an 8 percent admission's tax long before this.

SamAdams

Admissions tax is quite literally the most painless way to go. Cedar Point isn't going to suddenly fork out a lot of extra tax dollars. No, it will raise admission prices a little. If you were talking a doubling, or even a 150% price increase, I could see that as being detrimental. But a couple of bucks when you're already spending $50? That's nothing to the tourist, nothing to Cedar Point, and EVERYthing to a cash-strapped City!

Meanwhile, several people here have mentioned a really valid point: The City can't just spend every extra nickel it gets! It needs to save for the NEXT rainy day, and it needs to be accountable for the dollars it DOES spend. Yes, roads need to be repaired. Yes, fire stations need to be staffed. But watch out for money spent on the umpteenth "study" or added staffing where we've proved over the last few years it's NOT needed! Raise the admissions tax; mandate accountability.

There, see? All better now.

slightthroat212

Sam.....I totally agree with all you have said, but someone on your city commission needs some foresight to start thinking about courting some businesses into this place before all is lost. This city cannot afford to place all its eggs into one basket with Cedar Point leading into the future. You need to diversify going forward and start spreading your needs over several different companies tax income and not just on one thing or this town will fail miserably. That is going to take TIME, which is a luxury your town can ill afford.

Your town needs to get moving on this and cannot afford a bunch of studies duing it either. I cannot imagine why it has not done so by now. What manufacturing have you looked into or diversity shipping hubs have you checked into? You have railroad, boat and highway all right here. You have areas for factory all local. Why not initiate some feelers out for businesses? Many companies are looking to come back to the US. Why not look into it? You have a city manager....is that not part of her job? If not, get someone good at research and development who can do that who likes computers from your local college and offer an internship (unpaid) in exchange for hours worked. There are tons of things you can do. But get something done.

DGMutley

Doomsayer, scaremonger, fearmonger, someone who is exaggerating and causing needless worry or panic -- oh, that's an alarmist. Your post to Sam Adams seems to fit that category.

The city isn't placing all its eggs into one basket with Cedar Point. The city's revenues include several sources; see the presentation for the "Townhall" meetings on the city's website for the easiest accounting. As I've mentioned before in this thread an increase in the admission tax simply pays for Cedar Point's share of the costs of the infrastructure that we are providing them.

The city is interested in development. I'll let you research it. A good starting point is to explore the city's website.

DGMutley

Footnote:

I don't mean to discount your comment about Sandusky development; certainly more can always be done but it is a distraction from what needs to be done now.

Bogtrotter

W

doglegright

It is an economic fact that when you tax a product, people will use less of it. An admission tax will not hurt Cedar Point, it will hurt your visitors. Eventually people will seek out less expensive forms of entertainment and people will go to CP less. Go ahead and jack up taxes on CP (instead of fixing bloated expenses) and see what happens long-term.

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