City revenues up, bottom line down

Auditor suggests city council consider all options

By Nathan Kraatz -

David Hollingsworth

David Hollingsworth

WILMINGTON — Despite increases in revenues, Wilmington’s General Fund is still losing money, according to Wilmington Auditor David Hollingsworth, who urged council to consider all ways to raise revenue.

In March 2015, said Hollingsworth, the city’s General Fund had a balance less than $2.5 million. In March of this year, the fund’s balance decreased $356,000 to more than $2.1 million.

Hollingsworth said recent income tax reports show an increase in revenue, but he said some of that is due to state-level changes in how those taxes are collected, affecting the city’s cash flow rather than collections.

“Even though our revenues have the appearance to have gone up, our fund balance has gone down,” Hollingsworth said. “I want you to keep that in the back of your mind.”

While the 2016 budget has been amended, its initial passage anticipated a $1.3 million deficit, leaving the city with about $400,000 in 2017 — not enough money to pass a similar deficit budget.

The $1.3 million deficit represents about 15 percent of the city’s spending.

Since that budget was passed, several supplemental appropriations and cost-savings have occurred. Typically at the end of the year, several funds have leftover amounts, too.

Wednesday, the finance committee of city council received official estimates for how much a 1-mill or 2-mills property tax levy would raise in revenue.

A 1-mill property tax would generate an estimated $218,158, and a 2-mills levy $436,316, according to estimates provided to the committee by Clinton County Auditor Terry Habermehl’s office. That office also estimated that a home valued at $100,000 would pay $35 in additional taxes per mill.

A 0.5 percent earnings tax, by contrast, would generate approximately $2 million, according to Wilmington council member and finance chair Mark McKay.

McKay, and fellow council member Kelsey Swindler, indicated in March that they favored an earnings tax to raise revenue. McKay further specified that he leaned toward a 0.5 percent earnings tax.

Hollingsworth suggested council look at all options.

“When you take a look at what you want to do going forward … look at all avenues of raising revenues and not strictly just a property tax necessarily with the kind of deficit that we’re looking at potentially,” Hollingsworth asked of council.

McKay said asking the county auditor’s office to provide the property tax estimates was so council members have all relevant numbers for its budget discussion.

In March, Wilmington Mayor John Stanforth and his executive assistant, Marian Miller, said the administration was working to show what $1.3 million in budget cuts would do to the city.

At that same meeting, Wilmington Treasurer Paul Fear pointed out that the unionized city employees received raises while the non-unionized ones didn’t.

In related news, Hollingsworth said Moody’s Investors Service, which determines the city’s bond credit rating, asked what the city was doing “to stop the bleeding, so to speak.”

Hollingsworth said he believes Moody’s will watch to see whether the city passes a property or income tax in November.

Wilmington Mayor John Stanforth was absent. As such, he has 30 days to sign or veto any of council’s votes, detailed below.

Council also:

• Held a second reading and second vote on repealing the G-1 Gateway zoning ordinance. The vote to repeal the ordinance itself passed 5-2, and a third reading is expected at the next council meeting May 5. Council members Lonnie Stuckert and Joe Spicer voted against it. At a previous council meeting, both Stuckert and Spicer said they believe the decision was rushed.

• Made various supplemental appropriations, totaling $113,294 from the General Fund, $93,186 from the Jump Hangar Fund, $416,000 from the water fund, $355,034 from the Fife Avenue Water Main Replacement Fund and $8,000 from the sewer fund for various purposes including income tax refunds, JUMP hangar loan payments, capital equipment and bond retirement. The Fife Avenue fund, created Thursday, will be paid for by state funds.

• Issued a new $500,000 bond for the landfill to pay for Phase 5 of the landfill’s vertical expansion. The fifth phase does not commit council to expanding the landfill to a new cell.

• Agreed to issue notes on current bonds for the 2015 landfill bond, 2015 Davids Drive Improvement bond and $2.12 million for the 2015 waterworks bond.

• Agreed to participate in a partnership with Clinton County to participate in the 2016 Community Housing Impact and Preservation Program.

• Authorized the sale of surplus items to the public through GovDeal.

• Passed a second reading on an ordinance declaring as surplus two older police cruisers.

• Accepted the updated Clinton County Emergency Management Hazardous Mitigation Plan.

• Authorized the director of public safety to sign an agreement to participate in the Greater Warren County Drug Task Force.

• Council member Kelsey Swindler, chair of the water committee, said there will be a public meeting about fluoridating water at council’s next meeting on May 5.

Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.

David Hollingsworth Hollingsworth
Auditor suggests city council consider all options

By Nathan Kraatz