With less revenue flowing into city coffers, Northwood is considering deeper budget cuts or the possibility of an increase in the income tax.
Mayor Mark Stoner said last week that there was nearly a 5 percent reduction in revenue in January compared to last January.
“The income tax collections were $184,097, a decrease of $8,934, or 4.6 percent from the same period of 2009,” Stoner told council at a Feb. 11 meeting.
Stoner said he would be regularly providing council with financial updates from Finance Director Toby Schroyer at each council meeting.
Councilman Dave Gallaher said the city should have a plan in place if revenue continues to plummet.
“In light of our revenue already dwindling, I’m wondering if this city shouldn’t be looking forward and seeing what our options are if we continue to lose revenue,” said Gallaher. “If we’re going to be getting reports monthly, and we’re already 5 percent down, I think it would be in the entire city’s best interests for us to have a plan in place to deal with this. There’s going to be probably more tough decisions to make. I’m not sure we can do much more cutting and still maintain the city. I’m not sure where we’re at with that. I have to believe we’d be in much better shape if we’re prepared for the worst. While we’re doing that, I think we have to be sharing that information with the residents and letting them know the direction we’re heading and what our just in case plan is.”
Pat Bacon said the city will discuss ideas at the next finance committee meeting on Feb. 22, which will be attended by Schroyer.
“I’ve been putting down some thoughts and have some plans,” said Bacon. “That is the very topic of discussion. That will be the time to provide you with information, ideas, and strategy.”
“I’m encouraged by the fact that we’re getting ahead of this,” said Gallaher. “It may not be all good news, but at least we’ll have news.”
After the meeting, Stoner said he would be opposed to any proposal to increase the city income tax.
“I’m not in favor of a tax increase,” he said. “If we put that out there, it’s going to be voted down.”
One idea is to charge residents a fee for garbage pickup. Currently, the city pays for garbage pickup with fees it collects from the Evergreen Landfill.
“It wouldn’t be a tax, but a fee. But we’re just brainstorming right now,” he said.
The only other alternative would be budget cuts.
Last fall, the city cut over $600,000 in expenses, with few departments spared the budget ax. Among the cuts: 10.3 percent from the police department; 10.7 percent from fire; 14.1 percent from dispatch; 15.1 percent from the baseball program; 37.1 percent from the zoning department; 24.1 percent from the streets department, 29.1 percent from the mayor’s office, 15.1 percent from the finance department, 30.6 percent from the city administrator; and 13.8 percent from the court.
Personnel cuts included one full-time police officer, animal control officer, a court employee, and secretary, a traffic camera operator, one crossing guard, and two streets department employees. Other positions, such as dispatcher, zoning assistant, and tax compliant auditor, were not filled due to attrition.
Stoner said the budget can be trimmed again.
“We’re going to have to eliminate a couple hundred thousand dollars somehow,” he said. “We can’t run a deficit. I think there’s more room to cut the budget. We’ve been trying not to affect services to the citizens. But there might come a time when the citizens might notice it.”
Gallaher said he doubts there is much more to cut.
“If residents want their house painted, they can hire a painter. If they want their grass cut, they can hire someone to do that. They can’t hire police and fire protection. Safety services are something that the city is responsible to provide. I thought when we laid off police, and cut the fire department, that we were bare bones. If there’s more things we can cut, then I’m upset they haven’t been cut already,” he said.