April 20, 2014

Medina
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Brunswick cuts departments to ‘bare bones’

BRUNSWICK — The city spent less last year than a decade ago.

The city had total expenditures of $21.08 million in 2012 compared with $23.54 million in 2003, according to the city’s annual financial report filed with the state audit, which was released Tuesday.

“We spent $2.5 million less in 2012 than we did in 2003,” city Finance Director Todd Fischer said. “We’ve cut nearly all our departments but safety.”

Fischer said the Finance Department cut staff by about 50 percent and other departments, except police and fire, have been reduced to “bare bones.”

Fischer said the passage of a safety income tax levy in November will help to ensure the Police and Fire departments continue to remain free from cuts other departments have faced during the economic downturn.

The report also showed the city’s revenues exceeded spending for the third year in a row.

Fischer credited the city’s diverse employer base for helping the city weather the damage caused by the recession.

The city’s largest employer is Brunswick Schools, which provides about 6 percent of all jobs in the city. All of the other top 10 employers account for 2 percent or less of the total.

“We don’t have one large employer,” Fischer said. “Up until the downturn, people looked at that as a negative; but we have a lot of small, diverse businesses. If one, two, three or even 20 employers folded, it wasn’t going to have a huge negative impact on us.

“We’re not as volatile as communities with a tax base that relies on one or two major employers.”

Other good news is that for the seventh straight year, business taxes were greater than residential tax filings. Fischer said that’s a sign residents aren’t shouldering the majority of the tax burden.

“The more business you bring in, the less reliable you are on your residential taxpayers,” he said.

Fischer cautioned that the city is looking at a big bill for Boston Road and North Carpenter Road reconstruction projects, which could cost as much as $4.5 million to complete.

Fischer called the project the one remaining “hole” in the city’s overall financial picture.

“That’s an infrastructure issue from 20 years ago that we’re still trying to figure out,” he said.

In September, the city voted to set aside $1.3 million for the road project, but the city is looking at other sources of revenue.

City Council is moving to place a roads levy on the November ballot. A final reading on a resolution to put a 10-year, 1.2-mill property tax levy on the ballot is set for July 8.

A revenue stream dedicated to road maintenance would repair existing roads and start work on resolving the plans started on Boston and North Carpenter roads.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.