The following is the latest installment of Mayor Jim Boroff's monthly updates on city issues.
2011 budget. Finance Director Gwynn Reinhart and I have just started the 2011 budget process. As we did for the fiscal years 2009 and 2010, we will be projecting that revenues for 2011 will be approximately 7-percent less than those collected in 2008. This revenue assumption served us well in the past two years and gave us the necessary benchmark that kept our head above water.
We are meeting with each of the department heads to review and revise their respective budget requests - which collectively exceeds expected revenue for next year. As in the past, we will be carefully analyzing each and every line of each department's budget in order to maximize the quality of the services we provide our residents and at the same time to keep expenses under control.
Considering that finances are tight, I will be using every currently existing resource to ensure our citizens are well served by effective local government. At the same time, the administration will be scrutinizing every dollar to live within the means provided by our residents and to ensure at least a minimal cushion for contingencies.
Without question, the biggest budget unknown will be the expected increase in our health insurance coverage. Considering that our operations are extremely labor-intensive, any rise in employee benefit costs will be expensive.
During the past couple of years, the administration has been very proactive, implementing a number of cost-cutting measures and adopting policies that have saved the city almost $850,000. Consolidating our cell phones with one contract provider, changing our telephone service carrier, renegotiating our engineering at the landfill and implementing state recommended sewer splits - along with dozens of other changes - greatly have assisted us in making things work without asking our citizens for more tax money.
Furthermore, we have a much leaner workforce, with 18 fewer full-time employees than 2004 authorized strength. This has resulted in a savings to the taxpayer of additional hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Earlier this year, Fire Chief William Ennis was successful in applying for a SAFER grant which funds two of our fire department positions. This grant will result in a savings to the General Fund of more than $145,000 in 2011.
Finally, in May 2009, the administration imposed a 7-percent reduction in salaries and wages (and corresponding benefits) of our non-represented employees. This measure lessened our expenses for 2010 by a further $107,000-plus. However, this reduction cannot go on forever.
Once the finance director and I have achieved what we consider to be the best possible budget for 2011, I will forward my proposal to City Council. By our city charter, council members have the ultimate responsibility for the city's finances. They can accept, tweak or modify my proposed budget or present their own version for adoption. Whatever the outcome, the administration pledges to do everything within its power to maintain the highest levels of safety services and the best possible quality of life for the residents of Tiffin.
Speed limits. After the tragic accident on West Perry Street a week or so ago, my office has received a few inquiries about lowering the speed limit from 35 mph on that street to 25 mph. Because Perry and Market streets, among others, are state highways, the Ohio Department of Transportation prescribes speed limits within commercial and residential areas. We do not have the authority to regulate traffic movement there.
Unfortunately, in many fatal accidents within the city limits, excessive speed is the leading factor. So, whether 25 mph or 35 mph is posted, it makes no difference in the consequences under these circumstances.
Leaf pickup. For those of you who utilize the city's leaf removal services, we will start picking up the bags on a regular basis beginning in the middle of October. Leaf bags are available at our finance office or at various locations around town and cost $3.25 per bundle of 10.
The weekly schedule for pickup is as follows: Monday, north of Market and east of Washington Streets; Tuesday, north of Market and west of Washington Streets; Wednesday, south of Market and west of Washington Streets; and, Thursday, south of Market and east of Washington Streets. Public Works will use Fridays to catch missed bags citywide.
Please remember this is just a tentative schedule. Weather does become a factor, especially later in the fall, so we cannot guarantee we can absolutely adhere to this schedule. If you have any questions about leaf pickup, call Public Works at (419) 448-5430.