Following a year of significant change and some revenue loss, the City of Wauseon is poised for advancement in 2020, Mayor Kathy Huner said.
City income tax revenue dropped to $3,940,402 in 2019 from $4,117,713 in 2018, according to Finance Director Jamie Giguere. She attributed the lower numbers to a decrease in employee withholding tax from city-based manufacturers.
Huner cited layoffs at International Automotive Components as one cause of the decrease.
“It was a little more rough on the budget,” she said of the income tax loss. “Our income tax revenue coming in is not as strong as it had been. But we made it work.”
Giguere said tax revenue generated in 2020 is expected to be similar in amount.
The mayor said the city also had less money last year due to ongoing payments for projects like the community swimming pool. The city’s 2020 expense budget is $13.8 million, as compared to slightly over $14 million in 2019.
Despite the income loss, Huner said Wauseon fared well in 2019. Achievements included the appointments of former police chief Keith Torbet as the city’s public service director and Kevin Chittenden as Torbet’s successor.
“Hiring in new positions at the administration level is always huge for the city,” Huner said. “There are a lot of new ideas and procedures in the way these men will handle their posts. They wanted to stay (with the city) and they wanted to give more.”
She said she’s sorry to see the city lose the decades of knowledge and education gained by former public service director Dennis Richardson, who retired in late 2019. But Huner praised Torbet and Chittenden, saying, “It always leaves the door open for others to come up who have dedicated their time to the system.”
Huner also lauded them, Fire Chief Rick Sluder, and city pool manager Tom Burkholder for their efforts to keep their department expenses in check. “I’m very impressed with them. They really stepped up to keep the budget down,” she said.
As for her role, Huner said, in hindsight she might have been more proactive in the development of downtown Wauseon and in bringing new industry to the city. “Being more proactive is always a good thing. It’s always good to work together on projects for the benefit of the city – working with City Council and the administration.”
Wauseon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bill Drummer said the organization welcomed 22 new members in 2019. The city has its share of empty storefronts, but no more than are found in other cities, he said.
“In the small business sector, it’s hard for anybody to start a new small business,” he said. “It’s getting harder and harder to find start-ups for those spaces. But overall things are great in Wauseon. We had a number of people reinvest in their businesses. That’s always encouraging to see that the ones that are here are prospering.”
Huner said in 2020 the city administration will focus on improving infrastructure. Money has been budgeted for engineering plans on the infrastructure from Commercial Street to West Brunell and on portions of Vine and Chestnut streets. Bids will go out for a new water line project from Superior Street to Orth Road approved by the Ohio Department of Transportation, which is expected to begin at the end of February.
And she expressed thanks to citizens who volunteered to add to the city’s downtown area with flowers and plants and give it curb appeal. “People are actually stepping up with the downtown beautification,” Huner said. “That’s always something I see as a huge positive, that people actually cared and wanted to do this. The more that we can get done, the better our city will look.”
City Council President Jeff Stiriz gave Council an A-minus grade for its work in 2019. He said he regrets that work on a retention pond on Enterprise Avenue and on the aging water and sewer lines on Chestnut Street wasn’t completed.
“We need to budget and follow through on things we didn’t get done last year,” he said.
Stiriz said he’ll concentrate in 2020 on doing that.
“It’s important to give the community what they need and what they want. We work for them,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.