SIDNEY — The Sidney Fire Levy will not appear on the November 2020 ballot. Sidney City Council agreed to postpone placing the levy on the ballot until 2021.
The fire levy and adjustments to the city of Sidney’s 2020 budget and five-year financial plan were discussed during City Council’s virtual meeting Monday.
The decision was unanimous to hold off on moving forward with levy amid the current economic circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Council members acknowledged the need for the Sidney City Schools’ levy to get passed first and not present the school levy with competition at the polls this year. Mayor Mike Barhorst said if the school levy does not passed, it will likely also be on the November ballot.
“I feel very strongly,” Barhorst said, “that we need to get that school levy passed first. And until that happens, I think it would be foolish of us to try and put the fire levy on.”
He further noted Emerson had contributed $25,000 toward the next fire levy campaign, and several other businesses are also planning to contribute, so when council decides to move forward they “need to do it with the intention that (they) are going to be successful.”
All other council members were in agreement, and felt 2021 or 2022 would be a better time to consider moving forward, “regrettably but realistically” as Council Member Darryl Thurber put it.
“Really, a community is nothing without a strong school system, and with the cuts that just came from the state, even if the levy passes, they are still behind,” said Council member Jenny VanMatre. “I just can’t see hitting voters up again in November. I know the fire department is stressed and their response times aren’t where they would like them to be, but I commend them for working every day as hard as they can to get to every response as quickly as they can. And I know they will continue to do that because they are professionals.”
Also discussed Monday were contingency planning for the COVID-19 impact to the 2020 budget and 2020-2024 five-year plan.
After a senior director meeting on proposed reductions, Finance Officer Ginger Adams recommended the following for council members to consider:
• Staff reduced budgets a total of $2.5 million (about 9% of operating budgets, as adjusted);
-Budget reductions and capital project postponements/reductions necessary to maintain long-term viability.
• Reductions included to date do not include: layoffs or furloughs; further wage scale degradation (nonbargaining staff receiving lower wage scale increases than members of bargaining units).
Money can be saved by keeping some positions vacant (current vacancies or from pending retirements); reassigning some employee related costs from other funds; reducing seasonal employment; and from employee secession, of those promoted and earning a lower wage.
Cutting overtime, training, professional services, and the postponement of purchases or deferred maintenance are other ways to reduce costs, Adams pointed out.
She presented several charts showing “what if scenarios” and ways the city could bounce back.
Below are the next steps Adams suggested:
• Reduce 2020 supplemental appropriations;
• Begin work on next five-year financial plan 2021-2025 and 2021 budget;
• Continue to closely monitor revenue changes and make careful spending choices;
• Continue to pursue additional federal and/or state aid.
Council will consider the budget changes at a future meeting once legislation is prepared.
In other business, council adopted two ordinances that establishes 2020-2021 Shelby Public Transit System’s rates and amends the traffic control map reducing the speed from 55 mph to 50 mph on state Route 47 from Stolle Avenue to Lester Avenue.
Shelby Public Transit 2020-21 contract rates for July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021, will increase to $65 from $63 per hour, to $24.75 from $24 per trip, and to $5.30 from $5.15 per mile. Non-contract fares, which is service for the general public, will not increase.
The traffic control map is being amended to reduce speed from 55 mph to 50 mph to 40 mph on state Route 47 in an attempt to reduce crashes.
During council comments at the end of the meeting, several members said they preferred face to face meetings and asked when those regular meetings will resume. City Manager Mark Cundiff said they are working to figure out a way to conduct somewhat regular meetings again, but normal meetings will not likely resume until Gov. Mike DeWine allows people to gather in groups larger than 10 again.
Thurber spoke about the Ohio Building being on council’s agenda for at least the last five years and said he hopes it will not still be on the agenda for another five years. Cundiff said they have been working on the building and are currently working to create a marketing brochure for the building.
Council member Steve Wagner asked who closed the west sidewalk under the Big Four Bridge. He was told city staff believes the CSX Railroad closed the sidewalk because they “probably know something we don’t.” As of Monday, staff hadn’t heard back from the railroad about what is going on but will continue to look into it.
Barhorst announced the Tree City USA awards luncheon to be hosted by Sidney on June 19 is canceled due to the pandemic. The city of Montgomery asked Sidney to co-host next year’s event. He also thanked VanMatre, Wagner and Council member Ed Hamaker and Sidney Police for assisting the Ohio National Guard and West Ohio Food Bank with the food last week.
On behalf of City Council, member Ed Hamaker congratulated Fire Chief Brad Jones on his daughter being named salutatorian of Lehman High School for 2020. Jones thanked council for the praise and kind words about his daughter. He then also recognized Deputy Fire Chief Chad Hollinger’s daughter who was named valedictorian of Houston High School for 2020.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.