By Katelyn Sattler, Staff Writer
What is the financial state of the city of Obetz?
Obetz City Administrator Rod Davisson addressed this at Obetz City Council’s June 27 meeting, outlining several issues based on community feedback and questions from citizens.
“Obetz has saved about $8.8 million for its rainy day fund,” said Davisson. “Rather than ‘rainy day’ fund, it’s usually referred to as a carryover of the city’s finances from the previous year. You subtract expenses from revenue and carryover from the previous year and then you’re left with the carryover for the next year.”
He said that, over the past four years, the city has had a carryover of funds from the previous years including $6.5 million in 2018, $6.2 million in 2019, $4.2 million in 2020, and $5.5 million in 2021.
Davisson said the city’s expenses are increasing due to inflation.
“The interest rate is 8.5 percent, which is the highest it’s been in 40 years,” said Davisson. “Just like your expenses are increasing at your house, we’re paying more for gas or for materials.”
He also said Obetz’s income tax revenue is declining compared to last year because companies are scaling back employees.
“We’re paying more for gas or for materials,” said Davisson. “So when you have fewer employees, you have fewer income tax dollars.”
However, he said Obetz has no plans to layoff employees and hired a new police officer.
“We did offer severance packages to anyone who wanted to voluntarily leave and we had 12 people accept those,” said Davisson. “Those 12 people left, which will save us about $150,000 this year and about $350,000 to 400,000 next year. But right now, based on this three year plan, I don’t think we have to lay off a single person. We’re probably not going to be hiring a bunch of people, but can we keep it alive for three years? I think so. ”
Davisson added that Obetz has no plans to reduce resident services
“We’re not trying to get rid of the Zucchinifest, not trying to get rid of the Obetz Athletic Club, or the Obetz Community Center, the parks, all that stuff should be able to stay the same,” said Davisson. “That’s part of being a responsible government to make sure you still have those services available.”
He said it is all about cutting expenses and raising capital.
To cut expenses, Davisson said the department directors went through the budget to see how much could be saved, and began making cuts.
“Right now it looks like we have about $700,000 that we can cut out,” said Davisson. We supplement that by working harder or by outsourcing stuff. We’re planning for the worst and hoping for the best. So going into 2024 (after projecting the city’s budget for the rest of 2022 and through 2023), if we did nothing, we would be $2.7 million short of where we want to be, meaning we would have about $300,000 in the bank. And that is dangerous. That’s bankruptcy level operations. If in 2024, we continue doing the things I’ve talked about here, and this again is assuming flat revenue, we’re going to end up with our $3 million carry over plus about $200,000. I can tell you that makes me nervous. That is razor thin.”
Davisson made a proposal to council that the city sell 15 acres of land on Williams Road to a trucking company.
“Which is not ideal, but should raise $2 million,” said Davisson. “This will triple our money on that property and create a new business and 50 employees as well as a $50,000 a year stream of income for the next 20 or 30 years, on top of the purchase price for the land.”
Obetz has not raised and officials indicated the city will not raise property nor income taxes any time soon
“If you’re raising income taxes, you shoot yourself in the foot,” said Davisson. “We’re at 2.5 percent. Everybody around us pays 2.5 percent. If we go to 3 percent, you start to risk losing businesses. And if you lose businesses, you lose income, and that can become a downward spiral.”
Davisson said the city has applied for police retention grant funding that could give the city funding for up to 10 percent of its total police hours for one year.
“Our total police salaries are $2.5 million,” said Davisson. “So that would get you something like $200,000 for one year. That might help. It’s not going to save the world if everything goes bad, but we want to apply for everything we can get our hands on.”
Davisson added the city cannot and will not stop unionization
“When you become a city, you get unions whether you want them or not,” said Davisson. “So we’re not going to stop it. We’re not fighting it, but we are negotiating contracts. We’re going to get the best deal we can for council and the residents.”
Police contract negotiations
By Katelyn Sattler
The city of Obetz and its police force are in talks about a new contract.
Brian Toth, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge #9 in Columbus addressed Obetz City Council on June 27 stating, “I represent Obetz police officers. We (the FOP) represent about 4,000 police officers in central Ohio and 28 police agencies in central Ohio. It’s not just about wages. It’s about officers’ safety. Years ago, people had to negotiate for heat shields in their cars. They also had to negotiate for bulletproof vests. We find those things are important to officers because they always want to go home safe every day. That’s our goal – to keep our officers safe, gainfully employed, and support their families.”
Toth said it comes down to comp time and personal time for officers.
“They all need time off,” he said. “We’re in an era right now where a police officer is overworked every single day, all across the country. All your officers come to work every single day. They like where they work. Your officers want to be respected by you. And it seems to be the consensus that they believe you all do.”
Mayor Angela Kirk said, “I can say that none of us here have all of a sudden been more supportive of this police department and our police officers. I walked for that levy that they had asked for back in 2014. We have always supported them and you can find not one person in this community has said anything about defunding, including myself or this council or administration. And you will not find anyone who supports the police department more than these people sitting right here in this room. And we have always done that.”
Kirk said, as far as contract negotiations, it is something is to be done internally with the administration and with those who are on that team.
“And we’ll see the end result of that,” said Kirk. “We do respect the officers and we do care about them. They always had our support. We would like the same support in return as well, while we are trying to get through this and figure out exactly what it is the officers are asking for. Once that’s done, we can come to an agreement.”
Toth replied, “I want everyone to know, it’s not about pay, it’s about working conditions.
It’s about seniority. It’s about having a contract.”
“We’re not going to negotiate the contract in public,” said Davisson. “We are working to make sure we have the finest police department that is adequately paid for its work and that officers are absolutely safe going home, because one of them is the dad of two of my grandsons. I’ll make sure that they go home safe at night. We appreciate their willingness to have those discussions and to work out all of those things that make them want to protect the town at the level that we have an expectation of.”