Sidney Council looks at 5-year financial plan

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — The city of Sidney’s new five-year financial plan predicts moderate growth in the income tax, a moderate increase in existing fees, some staff additions and street and capital improvement projects, pending levy renewal.

The 2019-2023 financial plan was introduced by Finance Officer Ginger Adams during Sidney City Council’s workshop session, Tuesday night.

During the plan overview, Adams touched on a change in the city of Sidney’s revenue sources last year when they learned a local business changed the way it files its consolidated tax return. That affectes the city’s revenue, which is generated from direct collections from businesses’ profits. The city’s revenue is generated from municipal income tax collections by withholding taxes from people working within the city and from direct collections. The direct collections revenue derives from a volatile source, Adams said.

However, the average annual growth for years 2019-2023 is projected to be 2.6 percent in the income tax, which supports the general fund. This will allow the addition of 11.06 FTE (full-time equivalent) staff member and several part-time and seasonal positions to be filled, based upon renewal of the income tax levy. These include seven new Sidney Fire and Emergency Services positions for proposed fire station No. 3.

Other proposed full-time staffing changes are to reinstate an equipment operator for the street department in 2019 and, pending Shelby County cost sharing, the addition of an IT analyst in 2020.

Among proposed part-time staffing changes would be to reinstate a police evidence/property clerk (0.49 FTE) in 2019 and to increase part-time Shelby Public Transit drivers’ hours, if needed (1.00 FTE) in 2019 and 2021.

Proposed seasonal staffing include triennial curb painting labor (0.92 FTE) in 2021, biennial hydrant maintenance labor (0.31 FTE) in 2019, 2021 and 2023 and the addition of another engineering intern (0.29 FTE) in 2019.

With these staffing changes, excluding additions to a potential fire station three, the city’s staffing level will be 5 percent lower in 2023 (238 FTE) than it was in 2008 (243 FTE). The city cut employees after the 2008 economic downturn.

However, as Adams pointed out, due to Marcy’s Law, an amendment of the Ohio Constitution passed last year, and the potential passage of Issue 1 this November, staffing may need to be added for additional workload to be in compliance.

As the state has continued to cut revenues it used to share with local governments, the city has increased its dependence on the income tax. In 2007, the city received $1.7 million from the Local Government Fund (LGF), tangible personal property tax reimbursement and estate tax; in 2016 it received $414,000. Approximately $30,000 of the LGF annually was moved to drug addiction programs. Adams said that revenue that supports the city’s general fund is unlikely to return and the remaining distributions are at risk.

The city could face even more funding cuts if the state legislature passes a proposed “pay where you live” law for income taxes. If that happens, the city would lose $7 million to $8 million annually, plus $1.25 million that has been designated for street improvements, Adams said.

Adams reviewed street, cemetery, stormwater, water and several other funds. She also presented operating and capital cost information about the proposed fire station No 3.

Regarding stormwater, Mayor Mike Barhorst said the city is proud Sidney has the lowest rate in the state, but maybe they should look at increasing the rate to a mid-level cost so the revenue could be used for unfunded stormwater capital projects.

The proposed staffing for the north-end fire station No. 3, Adams said, would begin in 2020 with nine employees, seven paid from levy proceeds and two from the general fund. It would be located on the 11.5 acres of land the city purchased in 2016. Estimated cost to build the station is $3.65 million, with $1.5 million estimated for the furnishings and equipment.

Some discussion ensued about the concession stand fund. The expectation was for the concession stand to be self-supporting by the end of 2016; this has not happened. The plan predicts it will deplete its initial capital infusion by the end of 201. The new plan proposed an income tax subsidy of about $5,500 annually from years 2020-2023 for the consession stand. Council members discussed bringing the topic forward at a future meeting to discuss options.

Residents will see an increase in their city utility bills (water, sewer, stormwater and refuse). A low-volume user is anticipated to pay $56.50 per month next year, an increase of $1.35 per month in 2019. The figure for the average family of four will be $113.77, an increase of $2.92 per month in 2019.

Adams also reviewed the list of capital improvement projects planned for the next five years. Total spending in the capital improvement fund is budgeted to be $24.6 million.

Street, traffic and bridge projects total about $16.4 million; 36 percent is primarily funded through grants.

The largest capital improvements are $4.2 million in parks and cemetery improvement projects.

Council will further deliberate questions during the plan’s review at the Sept. 10 regular council meeting. It will be considered for adoption on Sept. 24.

A review of the upcoming Zoning Board/Planning Commission Agenda for Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, was given as well as a review of the prospective City Council Agenda items for the next 30 days.

City Manager Cundiff reminded that trash and recycling collection would be delayed one day all week as a result of Labor Day last Monday. He also shared the city would be co-sponsoring a Workforce Development day for high school seniors on Oct. 3, with other entities involved in Hometown Opportunity.

In addition, Cundiff told council the city’s utility aggregation consultant determined a lower electric rate may be available to Sidney residents at the close of the current contract. The consultant, Cundiff said, has been working with the city of Urbana after their voters recently approved aggregation, and that Sidney may be able to join on to that contracted rate.

Finally, Cundiff shared two consultants were interviewed to conduct polling on the proposed income tax levies and that more information would be coming.

Council also went into an executive session to consider the purchase of property for public purposes and for pending or imminent court action. No action was taken after council members emerged from the session.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.