While the mayor's first year in office had some major ups and downs, he spoke with optimism for the future of Tiffin, at the first State of the City Address Thursday.
Mayor Aaron Montz iterated throughout his nearly 30-minute address that the city needs to stay positive.
"We're moving Tiffin forward," he said to those assembled at the Ritz Theatre. "We're going to bring this community back."
PHOTO BY ZACH GASE
Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz encouraged the community to stay positive at the first State of the City address at the Ritz Theatre Thursday night.
He said while 2012 was not "the most fun year," he was proud to see the city make strides in saving and generating money.
Montz said he and City Administrator Deb Reamer have made some "unpopular decisions" to help save the city money, including changing the eligibility for overtime pay from 35 hours to the more standard, 40 hours.
He also said the city made changes to sick time, updated and created job descriptions for city positions, required city employees to pay premiums, established an attendance policy and updated policies and procedures manuals.
He said the city has saved money by renegotiating contracts. The city has saved $16,000 a year on copier machines, $12,000 a year on city-owned farm land, $45,000 a year on gas and electric costs and $27,000 a year on workers compensation payments.
Montz, who described himself as a "progressive conservative," said the city also is going to continue to chase grants as a way to save the city money.
He said the city finally has updated its "old and antiquated" sign code to make Tiffin more business friendly.
He said it is exciting to see nearly every factory in Tiffin is hiring.
Montz also took time during his speech to thank longtime City Council President Paul Elchert, who recently announced his retirement at the end of the year.
"He's been on council for about as long as I've been alive," said the 27-year-old mayor. "He's really showed a lot of leadership, and really has been that father figure that we've needed over the years on City Council."
Councilman Rich Cline, who announced that he has filed a petition to run for city council president, introduced Montz and said the four years under the previous administration was "plagued with division."
Cline said he met with Montz and other members of council, and discussed how they could work together better.
"The city of Tiffin is better off when its leaders can work together, and have an open and collegiate dialogue about our city," Cline said.
Montz said he wanted to bring a new mentality he referred to as "retail politics" to the city under his administration.
He said there is "a new atmosphere in city hall" along with a "positive way of thinking."
Montz cited the changing of the speed limit on Miami Street to 35 mph as "an early, simple victory" for his administration.
He said he wished the joint-courthouse idea, that Cline came up with, would have been more seriously considered because the courthouse probably would still be standing today.
He said the city is expected to spend $3 million to $4 million on a new courthouse.
"I think that everyone is able to see the benefits that having a joint city-county justice center will have for everyone," he said.
He said the city's court problems need to be addressed, including better security for city offices.
Montz said that the city has had the largest budgetary carryover it has had "in a long time."
He said the city has nearly $1.4 million in carryover from 2012, but said it is due to receiving $400,000 is estate tax, which has since been cut by the state. The city also received the last of the local government funds, and income tax collections were higher in 2012 due to many large construction projects.
He said after subtracting those funds, the city's carryover was about $600,000.
"I am not willing, as mayor, to go year-to-year with a carryover that is just at the minimum level, like we've been doing," Montz said. "We've got to begin to build that up."
He thanked Police Chief Fred Stevens for cutting $250,000 out of the police department's budget without having to lay off an employee.
Montz also sang the praises of the fire department, which is starting 2013 down six firefighters from what it had at the start of 2012.
He said the fire department's cardiac arrest save rate is 26 percent, and the national average is 8 percent.
"We have one of the best fire and EMS departments around," he said. "They deserve recognition for that, and the lives they are saving."
Montz said cuts in city government have been made everywhere, including the administration, which has eliminated 40 percent of its employees.
Other cuts include parks programs, the pool, fireworks and other programs.
Montz said the city has been working to save the pool from closing this summer by working on a management contract. He said more details are to be announced soon.
Montz said Heidelberg and Tiffin universities are the fifth- and sixth-biggest revenue generators to the city's budget.
"It's time Tiffin quits being a community with two colleges, and we start becoming a college town," Montz said. "We need to encourage these people. If these universities continue to grow, there won't be any talk of future tax increases."
Montz said he plans to run for mayor again in three years, and is not using his position as a "stepping stone" to advance his political career.
"I'm here to stay and to get things fixed in city government," he said. "I'm here to turn things around. I'm going to stay here in this office, until the people kick me out, or until I feel the city has been turned around."
Montz also thanked Reamer during the closing remarks of his address.
"This woman has been the greatest person to come to city offices," he said. "She's made a lot of people mad, but that's because she's doing her job. If you guys ever get mad at what is going on in the city of Tiffin, fire me, not her."