Although he started his speech out with good news for the city of Tiffin, Mayor Aaron Montz closed his address with a focus on the potential dire situation facing the community.
Montz spoke to residents at the Tiffin Area League of Women Voters' State of the City Thursday evening at Trinity United Church of Christ in with a message that highlighted changes since taking office at the beginning of the year, positive growth in economic development and the quarter-percent income tax on the November general election.
The tax measure, which would bring Tiffin's income tax to 2 percent - an increase of about $5 a month for an average citizen Montz said - is necessary to offset city expenses due, in part, to increases in health care costs to the city and about $1 million in revenue lost through cuts at the state level.
Montz said he and Gov. John Kasich had a verbal disagreement about the cuts in local funds, which Kasich said were to be offset through savings realized if Ohio Issue 2, which limited union rights for public employees, had passed in November.
"We're in a financial crisis right now in the city," he said.
Montz said the city is not asking for "new money," but to maintain current services and staffing levels. However, if the measure does not pass, it could mean cuts to police, fire and public works employees, with services cut including the city pool, fireworks program and plowing of residential streets.
"When you lose $1 million out of a just over $10 million operating budget, it's a lot," Montz said.
He said there is no guarantee some services would be reinstated if the measure passes, including the pool and fireworks, as his priority to make sure the city has adequate safety service levels.
Montz said city council has made cuts over the past few years, including requiring city workers to pay up to 20 percent of insurance costs within the next three years and changes in overtime policies. Some services also have been trimmed, such as having dropping recycling collection (which is now being handled privately through Karl's Hauling) and crossing guards next year.
The message was not focused entirely on dire economics. Montz provided some good news, saying there is a potential for 300 new jobs since July 1. He highlighted the recent openings of Rural King and Advance Auto Parts, as well as expansions of businesses including Arnold Machining.
"I'm excited about what's going on in Tiffin right now," Montz said.
Although he later qualified his statements, saying that if safety service levels decrease, there is a potential for increases to insurance premiums for businesses and industry, which could have a negative affect on development.
Montz added that a focus of his time in office is bringing "retail politics" to city hall, building on his previous retail experience. The focus of Montz and City Administrator Deb Reamer has been to take all suggestions into consideration and find solutions if possible.
He added his gratitude for Reamer, saying she is one of the best city hires of the past 20 years. Projects she has taken on include creating job descriptions for all employees and updating the policy and procedural manual.
Also mentioned during the meeting, league members are to beginning studying two subjects. League members are invited to attend a meeting with the education committee to study are public schools at 1 p.m. Sept. 26 at 54 Harvest Lane and a meeting to study the Seneca County Youth Center at 7 p.m. Sept. 25 in the Junior Home Room of the Tiffin-Seneca Public Library.