By Rick Palsgrove
The city of Groveport’s proposed 2021 budget is a reflection of the economic and societal turmoil caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
However, Councilman Ed Dildine marvelled at the positive aspects of the proposed budget saying, “It’s amazing to me when I think about all the things we accomplish each year as a small town of just 5,500 people.”
“Due to the 8 percent reduction in income tax revenue in 2020 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing uncertainty related to the pandemic, a 15 percent reduction in expenditures was targeted for the 2021 budget,” said Groveport City Administrator B.J. King. “We expect a 10 percent reduction in revenues next year and this budget accounts for this.”
He said, compared to 2020, many of the department budgets show a reduction of spending by an average of 14.5 percent.
King noted the proposed 2021 budget does reflect a “continued investment in public infrastructure improvements, the construction of two new buildings on Main Street, and a continuation of the quality level of services provided to the community.”
The general fund revenue for 2021 is estimated at $14.8 million, which is down from the estimated $16.4 million in 2020. The bulk of this funding comes from income tax revenue, which is projected to be $13.4 million in 2021 compared to $14.6 million in 2020.
Other estimated 2021 revenues include $420,433 from property taxes and various other amounts in other city fund categories that include grants, taxes, leases, fees, and permits.
Main Street development
The proposed 2021 budget includes the creation of two construction funds of $3 million each to be used for two new, two-story brick, mixed-use buildings: one to be built at the northeast corner of Front and Main streets next to Ace Hardware (known as the Rarey’s Port building); and the second at the northwest corner of College and Main streets (known as the Wert’s Grove building). The city is the developer for both sites.
Assistant City Administrator and Development Director Jeff Green said the projected timeline for prospective tenants for the two buildings is late-spring/early summer of 2021. He said the buildings address the community’s desire for new space in the historic downtown suitable for restaurants, retail, and other commercial development.
The Wert’s Grove building will be about 12,234 square feet: 6,056 on the first floor and 6,178 on the second floor. The first floor will have five separate storefronts with the interior space divisible according to space requirements for potential new businesses. Second floor space for now will be open. Parking for 67 vehicles will be in the rear of the building, accessible by Raver Alley to the west and Hickory Alley to the north.
The Rarey’s Port building is tentatively planned to be 14,145 square feet, with 7,017 square feet of space on the first floor and 7,128 square feet on the second floor. The second floor space will be open for now and the first floor have six individual storefronts facing Main Street and the interior space divisible as required. Parking will be in the city’s 92 space municipal lot behind the building and near Ace Hardware.
Patio space is planned for both buildings.
The estimated cost for the two structures combined will be approximately $6 million.
Groveport Finance Director Jason Carr said money for the two $3 million construction funds for the two buildings proposed in the 2021 budget would be funded by general obligation bonds. These are bonds from the bond market and are not property tax bond issues that would be voted on by the residents.
Capital improvement projects
Streets considered in the proposed 2021 budget in the $400,000 street maintenance program – for work ranging from milling and filling to spot repair to crack sealing to microsurfacing – include: Church Street; Baygrove Court; Edge Grove Drive; Brook Alley; Hickory Alley; Buckeye Alley; Maple Street; and Hilly Alley (concrete replacement). Curb and sidewalk repair are being considered for Blacklick Street.
Proposed street projects include: West Bixby Road pavement rehabilitation, phase 2, $1.5 million; intersection improvements at South Hamilton Road and Higgins/Directors boulevards, $516,000; and Groveport Road/Main Street at State Route 317 improvements, $160,000.
Also proposed is $30,000 for traffic signal upgrades, $25,000 for Main Street traffic signal poles, $35,000 for sidewalk curb ramp upgrades, and $50,000 for sidewalk repairs.
Proposed projects in 2021 for the water system include: $100,000 for the study and site selection for a new elevated water storage tank that in 2022 will require an additional $1.1 million expenditure to construct; $10,000 in fire hydrant upgrades; and $13,000 for a water plant security system.
The budget notes $75,000 is set for various park improvements.
Fiscal relief for recreation facilities
The city’s recreational facilities are feeling an economic pinch caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the proposed 2021 budget takes steps toward alleviating revenue shortfalls being experienced by the Groveport Recreation Center and the Groveport Municipal Golf Course.
The budget proposes a transfer of monies from the general fund of $2 million for the Groveport Recreation Center and $1.3 million for the Groveport Municipal Golf Course.
“Revenue at the recreation center is down $500,000 this year,” said King. “Hopefully both the recreation center and golf course can rebound next year.”
Councilman Shawn Cleary noted these two general fund transfers with caution stating, “We want to think ahead about costs concerning the pandemic. We’re going to the well pretty deep here.”
Other proposed appropriations
The proposed 2021 general fund appropriations are estimated at $17.6 million, which is down from $17.9 million in 2020. Some other proposed 2020 appropriations:
•Revenue sharing with Groveport Madison Schools, $1.2 million;
•Two new police cruisers and equipment, $142,100.
•Funding for festivals in 2021 that includes $51,075 for the Fourth of July; $16,465 for Christmas – A Heritage Holiday; $23,100 for Apple Butter Day; and $10,837 for the Halloween block party.
The 2021 city budget process
Groveport City Council will hear the second reading of the proposed 2021 budget on Oct. 26 and council will vote on it Nov. 9. Council meets in the municipal building, 655 Blacklick St. Council meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.