Mayor’s report: Wauseon persevered in 2020

By David J. Coehrs -

The City of Wauseon’s income tax revenue dropped about 4% in 2020, but government aid and tightening the belts of city departments helped the city come out ahead in the end.

That’s the consensus of Mayor Kathy Huner’s 2020 year-end report, released last week. Discussed briefly Monday during a City Council meeting, the report showed $425,996 more in city coffers at the end of 2020 than at the year’s beginning. That total was assisted by a $314,043 dividend payment Wauseon received from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

“While a slight increase in 2020 is a positive for the city, the coronavirus is still affecting the economy, which will once again cause expenses to be monitored closely throughout 2021 to ensure they remain in line with the decline in tax revenue,” Finance Director Jame Giguere stated in the report.

The city also was granted $524,297 in government coronavirus relief funding, most of which was used to help pay payroll and benefits for safety employees.

Giguere reported that the total cash balance of the city’s 16 separate funds was $6,750,849 as of Dec. 31. Gross tax receipts, less refunds, totaled $3,784,819 in 2020, compared to $3,940,402 in 2019 and $4,117,713 in 2018.

“This was quite a horrific year for not only this city but the state and our nation,” Huner told Council members. She said the 20% budget cuts city departments initiated in early 2020 “was a slam for our department heads but yet they persevered.”

Huner thanked the city’s residents for cooperating when the city municipal building was closed early on due to the pandemic. “They got on their computers and worked around, and did the effort to make sure that the city could keep going,” she said.

In other business, city Personnel Committee member Shane Chamberlin said Human Resources employee Sarah Wheeler attended a Feb. 15 meeting to discuss pay scales for various city positions. Chamberlin said he initially expressed concern about the discussion “with our revenues continuing to go down and our cost of business continuing to go up.”

He said the committee agreed to table a discussion about proposed changes to the Clerk of Council position. But Council members did approve the committee’s recommendation to accept updates to city job descriptions.

During brief 2020 recaps by city department heads, Public Service Director Keith Torbet noted that the city pool remained open last year with pandemic restrictions in place. “We actually sold more passes than we did the year before,” he said.

Torbet commended his staff’s work during 2020, calling it “just an overall great job…making sure the city’s needs were met even when they had to to it on a skeleton crew.”

Police Chief Kevin Chittenden praised his department personnel for keeping COVID-19 cases among them to a minimum, especially in light of their interaction with the public. He said the pandemic curfew and stay-at-home orders “really knocked out our numbers as far as traffic stops and crashes.”

Fire Chief Rick Sluder reported that department call numbers were down about 300 one year ago but have rebounded. He said his employees have assisted with administering COVID-19 vaccinations at the Fulton County Fairgrounds.

In new business, Council approved a $9,302.58 Justice Assistance Grant for the police department to purchase seven portable radios through North Carolina-based RG Communications. The city must match 25% of the cost, or $3,100.

In legislation, Council members approved: the first reading of a resolution approving the solid waste management plan update for the Joint Solid Waste Management District of Defiance, Fulton, Paulding, and Williams counties; second readings of ordinances to increase water and sewer rates by 6%, effective April 1, and to increase restoration fees for disconnected water service to $50 and service restored during non-business hours to $100; and the second reading of a resolution to authorize the mayor to contract with Sudsina & Associates as an advisor for debt offerings and other financing.

By David J. Coehrs

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.