A decrease in general fund revenues, layoffs, and budget cuts were among the challenges faced by Northwood last year, according to Mayor Mark Stoner in his state of the city address, delivered to council last week.
Last year, the city faced challenges “never before felt during my life-time,” he said.
“Due to economic factors we had to make cutbacks in all city departments to balance the budget,” he said.
“Our employees worked hard collectively to make the necessary budget cuts with minimal effect on our community’s services.”
He expected further challenges this year, he said.
“While I’m not clairvoyant and I cannot predict the future, one only needs to look at the daily headlines to fathom a guess as to the economic circumstances that the city as well as our nation will face in the foreseeable future,” said Stoner.
General fund revenues dropped 12.2 percent from 2008-2009, which translates into a decrease of $593,000 into the city coffers.
“Because of this decrease, the administration was forced to cut $678,000 in expenditures during the 2009 tax year. These cuts included laying off, or not filling the vacated positions of, nine individuals,” said Stoner.
Most capital improvements in the 2010 budget will be either delayed or canceled until there is an increase in revenues, said Stoner.
“To save additional dollars, the city this year enrolled several employees into a high deductible health savings account ($2,500/- $5,000). This will generate significant savings to the city. Wages have been frozen for all non-union employees, as well,” said Stoner.
Most of the decrease in general revenues can be attributed to the loss of jobs in the automotive industries, said Stoner. Northwood has several manufacturing firms that supply directly to the major auto manufacturers in the area.
The Wales Road grade separation project is moving forward with the Ohio Department of Transportation finalizing the purchase of property and newly acquired right-of-way, said Stoner. City council will have preliminary legislation to pass in February.
The project provides grade separations over the CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads on a realigned Wales Road, and then realigns Drouillard Road to eliminate the Norfolk Southern grade crossing located north of Wales Road. “Final plans are being reviewed at [ODOT] District 2 and are scheduled to go to Columbus in July with a sale date of December, 2010. Construction is currently scheduled to begin in the spring of 2011,” said Stoner.
Northwood was awarded $61,506 in stimulus money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for Curtice/Bradner improvements to replace an existing culvert and increase the turning radius at the intersection. The project is expected to start this spring, said Stoner.
Northwood also participates in the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which has funds available for first-time or repeat home buyers to purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed and/or vacant properties within targeted areas of Northwood. Information on the program is available at the city’s Web site at www.ci.northwood.oh.us under “Community.”
On zoning matters, over $3 million was spent for new construction projects last year, an increase from $1.6 million in 2008, said Stoner.
A total of 304 zoning permits were issued last year for residential, commercial and industrial new construction compared to 363 in 2008, representing a decrease of 16 percent, said Stoner.
The city saw new industrial and commercial businesses last year, with a total improvement value of $1,520,000, said Stoner. They included Columbia Gas, Unistrut, NOW Beverage, Flooring Interior Expressions, and Paschal, Bihn & Sons Excavating. The city also experienced industrial and commercial growth with construction and expansions at Johnson Controls, Northwood Local Schools, Piping Industry Training and Speedway.
“Last year was the sixth year the city implemented the program “Buy Northwood For Northwood,” which attracts and promotes businesses in the city by providing coupons to residents in the month of September. Last year, there were 25 businesses that participated, seven more than 2008, said Stoner. “The city gave participating businesses coupons to hand out as well as placing some at the city municipal building and advertising in the local paper,” he said.
“We plan to continue this program every year looking for new ways to attract new businesses and help existing businesses prosper,” said Stoner.
He also noted that the Woodville Mall was purchased last year for $700,000.
“The new owners have started to make some essential repairs which include tearing up the carpet and repairing the roof,” said Stoner.
“The new owners are working to open two new stores, Suite your Feet, and The Fashion Outlet, and plan on re-opening the Fox Theatre,” he said. “The city will encourage further improvements to the mall and continue to keep lines of communication open with the new owners.”
The recession led to the first ever lay-offs of staff in the police department, said Stoner. One patrolman was laid-off on Nov. 6. The planned lay-off of a second officer was temporarily avoided with the use of Photo Enforcement revenue.
Further cost-cutting measures were necessary to balance the budget for the police department, including leaving a vacant dispatcher position unfilled, changing the animal control officer status to “on-call,” discontinuing the traffic control operator and the speed van, said Stoner.
Traffic crashes and major crime were down last year, said Stoner. Traffic crashes were down for the seven year in a row, with a reduction of 9.28 percent from 2008. Major crimes, down for the fourth year in a row, dropped by 9.65 percent last year compared to 2008.
In Northwood’s Mayor’s Court, $167,512.65 was collected in fines, forfeitures and costs for last year, $52,057.65 more than 2008, a 45 percent increase. There were 530 more violations in 2009 compared to 2008, a 30 percent increase.
Due to budget constraints, the Mayor’s Court staff was cut from three to two employees last November, said Stoner.
In the fire department, there were 717 calls last year, a decrease of 95 calls from the previous year, said Stoner. The department assisted surrounding departments 38 times. The current number of personnel in the department is 43. There is a hiring freeze for 2010, said Stoner.
The public service department, in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Transportation, completed signalization on the Curtice Road overpass last year. In addition, Lemoyne Road in Northwood was resurfaced, said Stoner.
The Maryland and Norma Place pavement and utility improvements project, a joint effort with the city, Northwestern Water & Sewer District and the Ohio Public Works Commission, includes new waterlines, sanitary sewers, storm sewers, hydrants, curbs, curb ramps and new pavement on Norma Place and along Maryland Place between Wales Road and Venice Drive, said Stoner.