Mayor Infeld assesses state of the city for University Heights
My first year as mayor was a busy one. I reduced City Hall staffing by six percent; reassigned employees to create workflow efficiencies; appointed a part-time manager of senior services; appointed a full-time finance director; updated the website and joined Facebook; established late-night hours on Wednesdays during summer; cut the cost to produce the community newsletter; cut costs for towels, linens, cleaning and office supplies, and phone services; produced a new service department policy booklet; eliminated erroneous billing from the Illuminating Company; and established appropriate fund accounting for the city’s books. There was also the cleanup of financial issues from 2008-2009.
Some of the financial setbacks are still being addressed, but I believe we have a handle on the city’s finances. We finished the year with a surplus of $800,000, approximately $500,000 more than originally projected. This is largely due to higher-than-anticipated collections from the Regional Income Tax Agency and the settlement of a large estate.
University Heights typically has an annual surplus ranging from $100,000 to $350,000, so this is a banner year for our city. We need to use these funds wisely and continue cost-cutting into 2011. The 2011 budget I will present to the city council will contain:
- $60,000 for payments due on the University Square parking garage bonds. The city is several years in arrears on these payments and will make $60,000 annual payments for the next seven years to satisfy the debt;
- $200,000 for repayment to the county of 2006-2009 property tax payments that were lowered retroactively due to successful appeals to the boards of revision by commercial property owners;
- $100,000 to pay down short-term notes that are rolled over annually;
- $50,000 to establish a capital fund for equipment purchases;
- $100,000 for a 2011 road program to resurface city streets;
- $50,000 to establish a rainy-day fund to defray cutbacks from the state in monies normally returned to the city as the Local Government Fund;
- $65,000 for the city’s required contribution to planned county road resurfacing projects: the 2011 North Taylor Road resurfacing project and the 2012 Belvoir Boulevard resurfacing project;
- $100,000 for the street maintenance fund; and
- $75,000 for the sewer maintenance fund.
The delivery of services to residents is being evaluated for efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Within the next month, a residential survey will determine the relative value of various city services. Because budgetary constraints are projected to continue, we need to be proactive in assessing services and careful about making changes. I will make no changes to city services without input from residents.
Your city administration is committed to continuing its stewardship of taxpayer dollars. In recent months I have been meeting with the mayors of our neighboring communities to identify ways to collaborate to share resources and lower costs.
The city council will address the delivery of senior transportation, review the study commissioned in 2009 for rubbish collection, continue its evaluation of EMS billing, and consider an update of the zoning code.
Our city has been fortunate in obtaining donated funds and grant money this past year for various purposes: free First Alert fire and smoke detectors; a new pumper truck for the fire dept; free medical items for the ambulances; free background checks for citizens volunteering for the Community Emergency Response Team; reduced costs for bulletproof vests; reduced costs for the D.A.R.E. program and the Juvenile Diversion program; free portable digital audio recorders and a laptop computer/mobile data terminal; and a rain garden. We will continue pursuing grant dollars to fund special programs and capital equipment purchases.
We have so many things to celebrate. Sound fiscal management has kept our city in the black. Our treasured asset, John Carroll University, continues to focus positive attention on University Heights. Our public schools have received recognition with both the state’s 2010 Teacher of the Year and Treasurer of the Year awards. The building department oversaw a large number of home improvement projects with the issuance of 1,836 permits. The police department formed a cooperative agreement with nearby cities for SWAT services. The fire department performed 340 home safety inspections with the introduction of a residential fire safety program.
Our green initiatives are blossoming. We established a water demonstration rain garden with $10,000 of grant funds from the NEORSD at 2603 Ashurst Road. A community garden on North Taylor Road will open this spring, with planting sites available for residents.
I appreciate the confidence you have placed in me to work with your city council for the continual growth of our city. It is my intention to continue the delivery of services that you have come to expect, while keeping costs within our means. As always, if you have any issue or concern about the city, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 932-7800 x222.