October 31, 2014

Elyria
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Brinda: Dire financial picture for Elyria

ELYRIA — Mayor Brinda painted a pretty green picture Tuesday during her State of the City address.

Green as in money — saved, earned and needed to keep Elyria moving for­ward in the coming years.

Brinda spoke to a standing-room-only audience at Wesleyan Village during a joint meeting of the Elyria Rotary and Lorain County Chamber of Commerce. It was her second State of the City address, and it was used to discuss the highlights of 2012 as well as the challenges the city will face this year.

Fiscal accountability was a key point of the platform that Brinda campaigned on and the first thing she aimed to tackle once taking office.

“I’m happy to say we managed to create or save an additional $1 million in revenue,” Brinda said.

That figure does not include federal grants or one-time revenue, like the more than $3.4 million the city received earlier this month in unclaimed funds from the state.

“No, it’s a matter of every little thing adding up and counting,” Brinda added.

The additional revenue came from var­ious places — rebidding major contracts, working with vendors for lower rates and even getting rid of a public garbage bin, which is saving the city $30,000.

But the good news did not last long.

“This is Elyria’s fiscal cliff,” Brinda said as a picture of a sharp cliff from Cascade Park was shown in her PowerPoint pres­entation. It was a lead-in to a very frank talk about the city’s finances.

The failure of Issue 54, which was put before voters last November and dealt with whether the city charter should be changed to allow for additional attempts to place income tax issues on the ballot, was a huge blow to the city, Brinda said.

It gives more urgency that voters renew the 0.5 percent five-year temporary income tax that will be on the ballot in November, she said. It represents $6 mil­lion a year for the city and will be espe­cially needed as the city faces $1.7 million in reductions in 2013 from the repeal of the estate tax and decline of the local gov­ernment fund.

“Help us,” Brinda pleaded, knowing several Elyria voters were in the audience. “We are doing everything we possibly can to increase efficiencies, oper­ate effectively, and I can say the city is running as lean as possible.”

Brinda said the city will also need to replace or eliminate another $5 million in the next 18 months. Again the estate tax and local government funding cuts are to blame, in addition to the phasing out of federal grants that were given to boost both the Police and Fire departments. The impact of layoffs by city companies such as Invacare also will cost the city hundreds of thou­sands of dollars, she said.

With so much at stake — easily more than $6 million in the next two years — it seems that a plea for taxes beyond November’s ballot issue is possible.

Brinda, however, said she hasn’t made her mind up yet. She said she wants to keep chipping away at the budget on her own before she asks residents for more money.

“If we have to come back to voters for additional money — I’m not ready to say we will — we want residents to know we have done everything we can to be responsible with what we have,” she said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.