- Michael Cooper Staff Writer
The city of Springfield has implemented several recommendations from a citizens group tasked with analyzing its budget two years ago, including increasing revenue and eliminating its golf course subsidy, leaders said.
In January 2016, the city selected 24 residents to participate in its Community Financial Advisory Committee to analyze its budget. The committee consisted of business leaders and community members, Springfield City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said.
Bodenmiller provided an update last week of where the city stands in completing some of the recommendations made by the committee.
“We’ve tried to listen and learn from that group,” he said.
The committee has been pleased with the progress the city has made to fix its finances, said Springfield City Commissioner David Estrop, who served on the finance committee before he running for office. He wants city staff to continue to update commissioners about the progress its made, he said.
“There’s obviously more work to be done by the whole administration and the commission recognizes that, but we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
After spending about five months analyzing the city’s finances and operations with staff, the group made several recommendations in an eight-page report released to the city in May 2016.
The report included asking voters to increase the income tax rate from 2 percent to 2.4 percent for five years, which passed at the polls a year later.
“We were facing great fiscal stress if things didn’t change,” Bodenmiller said.
The group also recommended a performance audit be completed before the issue was placed on the ballot. The city hired Performance Financial Management to perform that study, which was completed in October 2016.
The committee also recommended the city review costs at the Clark County Municipal Court, which receives between about $4.2 million and $4.8 million annually. The cost of the court system was included in the performance audit, which recommended “a more researched analysis” from the National Center for State Courts, Bodenmiller said. Since that time, the municipal judges declined to have the study completed, he said, but it could be revisited in the future.
The group also recommended Springfield eliminate its golf subsidy at Reid Park Golf Course by 2018. The city chose to lease the property to a third-party vendor at the end of 2016.
The move is saving the city’s general fund about $200,000 annually, Bodenmiller told city commissioners.
“By all indications, it’s working very well,” he said.
Springfield leaders also will continue to seek to share services when possible, he said, such as the recently opened joint crime lab with the Ohio Attorney General’s office.
The city and Clark County have worked for several years to combine emergency dispatching services, which was also recommended by the committee. The county recently considered a tax on improved parcels to pay for the dispatch center, but county commissioners rejected it. The county recently hired a consultant to examine how to move forward with the project.
The group also recommended examining its billing for services performed by the Springfield Fire/Rescue Division, including the way it bills patients and collects on bills not covered by insurance, Bodenmiller said. The city is now appropriately billing people, he said, resulting in $325,000 more last year.
The report also recommended the city consider a single trash hauler to save residents money in light of the proposed tax increase, Bodenmiller said. Currently five to six companies pick up trash in Springfield.
“It would also increase the quality of our pavement in Springfield,” Bodenmiller said. “It’s probably a topic for future discussion.”
The committee also made several recommendations about health care. The city is working to increase its employee share of costs to 15 percent, Bodenmiller said.
“It’s more in line with what we’re seeing in the private industry,” Bodenmiller said.
The city has also begun a wellness program, which has been negotiated into nearly all of the union contracts and will go into effect this year, he said.
In late 2016, the city also began leasing vehicles on a case-by-case basis to save money, Bodenmiller said.
“Quite honestly, it doesn’t always make sense, but when it does, we try to do it,” he said.
The committee also recommended the city communicate better with residents and employees, Bodenmiller said. The city has made several changes since that time, including updating its website and starting a Facebook page, he said. It also began a monthly newsletter for employees.
“We have to do a better job of telling our story,” he said.
4 QUICK NEWS-SUN READS