‘Chipping away’

Fostoria financial recovery ‘a little ahead of schedule’

PHOTO BY JIMMY FLINT Fostoria City Council’s newest member, John Schuld, is sworn in before a meeting Tuesday evening as other council members look on. Schuld was appointed to the Second Ward council seat last month.

FOSTORIA — Fostoria city officials appeared optimistic about the city’s financial outlook Tuesday evening as reported General Fund figures inch closer to the black.

Finance Director Steve Garner said the city’s General Fund balance through May was $-357,206.01, after beginning the year at

$-996,359.55.

“We’re chipping away at that deficit,” he said. “It’s coming closer and closer into the black.”

Garner said income tax revenue was about 20 percent higher through May compared to the same period last year.

He also said General Fund revenue through May was about $3.8 million with about $2.9 million in expenses.

According to Garner’s financial report, revenue through May was nearly $1 million higher than revenue through May 2017. Expenses through May were about $82,000 less than for the same period last year.

Revenue increases partially can be credited to voters approving a five-year, 6-mill property tax levy in November for safety services and to the partial phase-out last year and complete removal this year of tax reciprocity, a tax credit that allows people who live in one municipality but work in another to be credited for taxes they pay where they work.

Also helping finances is a SAFER grant received by the city. The grant is to help fund three Fostoria Fire Division positions over the next three years. About $404,000 is to be gained through the grant.

Councilman Doug Pahl asked if improved financial figures put the city “a little ahead of schedule” compared to initial projections from the city’s five-year fiscal recovery plan. The plan, which is updated every year, is required by the state auditor as part of the city’s response to being placed in fiscal emergency in May 2016.

Mayor Eric Keckler said the financial report does put the city ahead of schedule in its recovery.

“I believe we are a little ahead of what we thought,” he said.

Councilman Greg Cassidy offered “tremendous caution” when viewing the numbers.

“I’m not bashful about it, I’m concerned,” he said.

Cassidy said getting temporary boosts from the SAFER grant, removing tax reciprocity and the tax levy make things easier now, but could make them harder later.

“We’ll have four more years of the tax levy, then we’re going to have to stand on our own two feet. … We’re going to have to bite the bullet,” he said. “We are going to have to feel a lot of pain now so we don’t feel a lot more pain long-term.”

Cassidy said he was happy to see expenses decreasing from 2017 and stressed the importance of keeping them down.

“It makes me feel a little better, as long as we stay on that track,” he said.

Keckler said personnel from Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost’s office were in the city Monday. He said the officials were preparing to draft another five-year fiscal recovery plan. Keckler said the process would begin in the next couple weeks and council should be ready to work on the plan.

In other business, Keckler said the city received a water report from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“In all categories, we met standards and in most categories we exceeded standards for the water at our plant,” he said. “The folks at the water plant are doing an excellent job.”

Safety Service Director Deb Hellman also informed council of an upcoming Columbia Gas project.

“We met with them, they are going to be doing some work in the city starting sometime in August,” she said.

Hellman said the project would affect about 100 residents.

“Their media team will provide letters to customers, door hangers, post cards. … All (those affected) should be well aware,” she said.

In other news, council’s newest member and newest firefighter were sworn in.

Second Ward Councilman John Schuld, who was appointed last month, was sworn in before the meeting by Law Director Timothy Hoover. Schuld replaces former council member Greg Flores, who resigned in May.

Schuld is a former city auditor and an employee at First Federal Bank in Fostoria.

Hoover also conducted a swearing-in ceremony for Jeremy Gregg, the newest firefighter/paramedic for Fostoria Fire Division.

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