Safety & City Services FAQ’s
As we continue on with our community engagement effort, we have recognized that some common questions come up routinely. In an effort to communicate the information we get from residents out to the rest of the community, we have created this list of “FAQ’s”. We understand many people have individual or unique questions, and we want to hear from you through any of the available methods. Knowing that, this list is not all-inclusive, but we will continue to build it as we frequently hear questions. Thanks to everyone for reaching out and helping us guide our informational efforts!
Q: What is the state of the city’s financial situation?
A: In 2008, the City of Huber Heights responded to citizen’s desires and allowed for a .25% earned income tax rate to rescind by vote of the citizens. At the time, there was more than $12 million in cash reserves in the city’s operating reserve fund. Since then, the city has been forced to deplete the reserve at an average rate of $2 million dollars per year in order to maintain current levels of safety and city services. Voters rejected an attempt to raise new revenue in 2012. Maintaining current service levels, the reserve fund will be depleted in 2015, and the city will need to raise additional revenue through an earned income tax increase or forced to drastically reduce city services.
Q: Why hasn’t the city informed the residents of this financial situation?
A: The City of Huber Heights is dedicated to being open, honest and transparent. In 2012, the city went to the voters with a tax increase that would have generated enough revenue to maintain current service levels preventing the depletion of the cash reserve; however, the voters turned it down. Now that we are at the crossroads, we are informing residents of the choice that they will need to make: raise new revenue through an earned income tax or experience reduced safety and city services.
Q: If the city knew it was spending its cash reserves, why is the music center being built?
A: The music center is funded with a projected payment plan consisting of only Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenues, and no general fund revenues. The music center is currently being built using short-term notes (less than 1% interest) to finance the construction which will save the city money on interest charges as opposed to obtaining bonds at the current time. Once the construction is finished, and the total costs are verified, long-term financing will be sought. The payments on the music center will then be made from the TIF funds. TIF funds can only be used on infrastructure and public facilities, not on safety or city services, personnel, or operational expenses (i.e. they can be used to build a building, but not used to pay for staffing or operating the building). Again, no general fund money is being used to build the music center. A separate fund will be created to operate the music center. The operational expenses are expected to be covered through a variety of projections to include: sponsorships, naming rights, operating revenue, and the terms of the operations agreement. In our estimates, there is no projected loss when including all the revenues available generated by the music center. Again, this includes naming rights deal, sponsorships, etc. The operating revenue is difficult to project at this time; however, it is proportioned based on the number of events held. In other words, the sales of tickets, concessions, etc. for the events held are projected to financially support the cost of operating the facility.
An independent feasibility validation study conducted by the nationally recognized Conventions Sports & Leisure details all projected revenue and economic development impacts, and can be viewed by clicking here.
Q: How was the construction contract for the music center awarded?
A: The city put out a request for a bid from qualified and experienced building companies that have constructed similar types of buildings in the past. Once all qualified bids were received, the city awarded the contract to the lowest and best bidder.
Q: How does the cost of our music center compare to the one built in Cincinnati?
A: The buildings may look similar; however, there are considerable design and structural differences. In addition, there was more infrastructure required to build our music center. The PNC Pavilion was built in 2008 as an addition to an existing site, using already owned land and infrastructure. Our project had to include costs such as the purchase of the land, site work, the parking lot, concession buildings, bathrooms, a courtyard area, landscaping, and additional exterior building costs. Considering the differences in scope as well as the difference of construction costs compared to 6 years ago, the cost of our music center cannot be directly compared to PNC Pavilion.
Q: What is the projected economic development impact of the music center?
A: The music center was designed and built to become an economic catalyst for Huber Heights. The goal and mission of the music center is to provide a top-class amenity, add to the cultural arts, and bring people into the area to spark additional development and economic benefit to our community. This concept has already been proven to work, as a major economic boost has been attracted in even before the music center is completed! GoodSports hotel and fieldhouse will be breaking ground in the Spring, and will bring the world of sports tourism to our community. Their project is expected to bring well over $100K each year in additional revenue just at their facility. That does not include the economic benefit to our existing and future restaurants, hotels, and other service and entertainment businesses. There is a growing flow of interest from other significant development that will positively impact the economic growth and development of Huber Heights. An independent feasibility validation study conducted by the nationally recognized Conventions Sports & Leisure details all projected revenue and economic development impacts, and can be viewed by clicking here.
Q: What will the music center’s impact on our city’s safety services be?
A: There will be a demand for some additional safety services; however, many of the needs will be met through the operations of the music center itself. For example, internal security will be hired by the operator and will be paid as part of the operations of the event. In addition, any extra costs for specific events will be billed to that event. Much like any other activity within the community such as festivals, parades, fireworks, etc., we have good plans in place to manage the increased event-specific demands.
Q: Why did the city opt to do a phone poll/why was I not called?
A: The City of Huber Heights is committed to a long-term communications program with its residents where they can voice their opinions and concerns. Similar to a gallop poll, it is logistically impossible to contact everyone in the city to participate. However, the phone poll does allow for the polling of both landlines and cell phones, with representation from all ages and wards throughout the city. The information gathered is simply to serve as a baseline for future discussions. The results have been posted to the city’s website, and all residents are encouraged to participate in any upcoming community outreach meetings.
Q: Where can I view specific information regarding the city’s financial status?
A: Our commitment is to keep up-to-date, factual information available for our residents. We are always open for requests, and we are continuously building the information made available on the city website. The city’s financial information, including annual reports and budget expenditures, can be viewed on our website by visiting the Finance Department's page.
Q: If the city is forced to reduce safety and city services, what specifically will be cut?
A: There are many dynamics to projections and estimates; however, none are to the scale of $2.3 million. The City needs to identify $2.3million in increased revenue or additional reductions in expenses. Currently, the police and fire budgets consist of 90% expenditures for personnel, and 10% to operations. In other words, a $2.3million cut involves reducing personnel which results in drastic cuts to service levels. Below is a view of projected cuts and reductions to accommodate the loss of $2.3million:
- City Hall $525,000- Reductions in a variety of support services to public safety personnel and operations.
- Parks & Recreation / Senior Center $225,000- Loss of seasonal personnel who maintain parks during active seasons which will result in closing of park amenities due to lack of maintenance and upkeep.
- Fire/EMS $723,500- Significant reduction of service delivery due to loss of 9 fire/EMS personnel in addition to currently vacant positions.
- Police $797,000- Significant reduction of service delivery due to loss of 7 police personnel in addition to currently vacant positions.
Q: Why is the city saying that they won’t build the new firehouse unless they are able to raise new revenue when the funds for the firehouse were passed in a previous tax issue?
A: The city has been working diligently as the funds for construction have been accruing to secure a potential location for the new firehouse. With the reduction in revenue since 2008, the project plan has been evaluated against fiscal responsibility. Although funds have been accrued to build the structure, without additional revenue the city would not have the funds available to staff the firehouse if it was built. Without having the revenue to ensure staffing levels beyond 2015, and to remain fiscally responsible, the city is holding off on the construction process. However, if additional revenue is created, the existing plans will be immediately finalized, and the project will be able to begin.
Q: Why is the city talking about raising taxes instead of making do with less money?
A: The city is dedicated to serving its residents with the level of services they desire. The current level of safety and city services is unsustainable at current revenue levels. Because of this, the city is allowing its residents to decide if they would prefer to maintain current safety and city services by voting to pass an earned income tax increase, or reduce/cut safety and city services by voting to deny an earned income tax increase.
Q: What exactly is taxed in an earned income tax?
A: An earned income tax is exactly that; tax on income that is earned through employment or business operations. Retired senior citizens and those unemployed are not taxed. The following items are not taxed in an earned income tax:
- Capital gains
- Annuity income
- Income from estates
- Social security benefits
Q: Are you proposing a temporary or permanent earned income tax?
A: We have heard from residents that some people want a permanent tax due to voter fatigue, while others would prefer a five or ten year earned income tax. No decision has been made, as we are continuing to listen to the opinions of our residents.
Q: What cuts has the city already made, prior to the discussion of the earned income tax?
A: Since 2008, the City has had a reduction of more than $13.7million in revenue due to governmental changes. That includes .25% reduction in earnings tax and elimination of the local government funding from the State. In addition, the effects of the economy has provided an additional loss of $8million of revenue. Since 2008. The City has managed the $22million reduction in revenue by operational cuts over the past 6 years; averaged to over $3.6 million per year. Today, the City is operating at the same budget request dollars as 2008 and is in fact maintaining more with less. There has only been an overall 1.6% increase in the budget since 2008 while managing the $22million reduction in revenue, increased operational costs (NOT expenditures), and maintaining acceptable service levels. After making significant operational cuts and reductions of over 20 full time personnel through attrition, the City has been subsidizing the cost of safety and city services from the reserve fund at an average of $2million per year. Even considering the significant cuts made in the past 6 years, and while maintaining the current service levels, the cost of those service levels is higher than the revenue brought in. Here are the differences from 2009 through 2014 (budgeted) of revenue brought in versus the cost of current operations:
- 2009 $2.8million
- 2010 $1.4million
- 2011 $3.2million
- 2012 $2.8million
- 2013 $2million
- 2014 $2.5million (budgeted)
At the end of 2015, it is projected the City will not be able to fund a 2016 budget at the current operational service levels; therefore an increase in revenue is needed, or a reduction in personnel and services will take place.
Q: What was the recent action City Council passed about putting a tax levy on the ballot?
A: Recently City Council passed a motion to authorize the City Manager and City Attorney to take the necessary steps to prepare a ballot measure for a proposed city earned income tax increase for November 4, 2014. This does not mean ballot language has been developed and approved. Votes to adopt specific ballot language for the issue will come at a later time. The recent motion authorized the continued development of the ballot language as we engage the community to identify priorities and terms.
Q: How can I participate in having my voice heard by city officials?
A: You can view all upcoming community engagement sessions on the city’s website at www.hhoh.org Community meetings and city ward meetings will be announced on our website, Facebook page and local media. Stay tuned!
Q: Please explain what if any other alternatives the city has looked at before making the decision to place a new tax levy on the Nov. ballot to increase the earned income tax rate.
A: Since 2008, the City has had a reduction of more than $13.7million in revenue due to governmental changes. That includes .25% reduction in earnings tax and elimination of the local government funding from the State. In addition, the effects of the economy has provided an additional loss of $8million of revenue. Since 2008 the City has managed the $22million reduction in revenue by operational cuts over the past 6 years; averaged to over $3.6 million per year.
Today, the City is operating at the same budget request dollars as 2008 and is in fact maintaining more with less. There has only been an overall 1.6% increase in the budget since 2008 while managing the $22million reduction in revenue, increased operational costs (NOT expenditures), and maintaining acceptable service levels.
After making significant operational cuts and reductions of over 20 full time personnel through attrition, the City has been subsidizing the cost of safety and city services from the reserve fund at an average of $2million per year. Even considering the significant cuts made in the past 6 years, and while maintaining the current service levels, the cost of those service levels is higher than the revenue brought in. At the end of 2015, it is projected the City will not be able to fund a 2016 budget at the current operational service levels; therefore an increase in revenue is needed, or a reduction in personnel and services will take place.
Q: I understand the city is getting ready to negotiate new labor contracts for all the union workers in Huber Heights. Under the current contract employees health benefits include 100% of the insurance premiums. Who will be representing the taxpayers in these negotiations of the new contracts? Can you explain other areas that might be a cost savings to the taxpayers that might be explored?
A: There is no question that employees are the largest cost of our operation. In fact, for public safety, 90% of the budget is for people, and 10% is for things. To that fact, we have strived for several years to stay a productive and competitive work environment to keep adequate care of our most valuable asset. We are entering contract negotiations, and I can assure you that we will approach it with a goal of cost containment. A benefits package is much more comprehensive than just salary and health care, and where there are reductions in one, it may cause increases in the other. Nonetheless, I can assure you that we have many years’ experience in managing employee costs to maximize benefit to the community. At this point, it is not permitted to discuss elements of negotiations, but you can be certain that all elements of employee benefits will be discussed with two primary goals: 1) contain costs 2) provide quality working conditions to maintain quality employees. When we discuss those things, it is a comprehensive discussion with many variables and comparables, not just based on a couple of elements. We will always work hard for the benefit of the community.
Q: When does the city expect to receive the $1.8 million check from DEC company that was presented to the city last September?
A: The presentation last year included a large foam-board representing the image of a check. Of course, that was not real check, and in fact the date on it was November 2014. The check represented a value of land that the City owns which is under an option contract for purchase at the value of $1.8million. The presentation was to show that when the option to purchase land was invoked, then payment will be made. The time period of the option ends in November 2014. The purchase of the land will occur within the time from of the contract.
Q: Can the city explain the use of the Emergency Clause that seems to be used for legislative actions taken by the City?
A: We commonly get questions about why items are passed by council as an “emergency”, along with the suggestion that things are being rushed through without public input or comment. We have heard these concerns, and are working diligently to give as much time possible between public meetings for citizen input and discussion about agenda items. However, there are still appropriate times when either waiving the readings, or passage of an item as an emergency will be necessary.
I want to address three quick things to hopefully provide an explanation and better understanding:
- Waiving the Second and Third Readings
- Emergency Legislation
- What the City is Doing to Give More Time for Citizen Input on Agenda Items
Waving the Readings:
The Charter of the City of Huber Heights requires the actions of Council be done by motion, resolution or ordinance. The majority of the agenda items are recorded by resolution or ordinance, and according to the Charter, a resolution or ordinance requires three separate readings. Two-thirds of the voting members can choose to waive the second and third reading in order to get the action and decision into motion. Where this would be necessary is to allow the action authorized by the resolution or ordinance to be carried out without further delay. In addition, the Rules of Council require agenda items to be discussed in an open public committee meeting prior to being presented to the full Council.
For Example…If the City needs to purchase playground equipment for a local park, bids and quotes would be solicited through standard procedures. Using the full legislative process, it would take approximately 70 days to formally accept the quote and purchase the equipment. In this case, the quote may only be valid for 30 days; therefore it may be necessary for Council to waive the second or third reading in order to follow standard business practices and void having to re-bid the equipment.
Waiving the readings does not mean “emergency legislation”, and one is not attached to the other. After agenda items are discussed and vetted in open public committee meetings, they are presented to full Council for additional open discussion. Council may choose to waive the second and third readings if there is an operational need to move forward, if the topic is simplistic and a matter of standard practice, or to clear it from the agenda to allow discussion of additional topics.
Section 5.06 of the City Charter allows a resolution or ordinance to be passed as an “emergency” under the following conditions:
- the ordinance or resolution is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety or welfare,
- or for an emergency in the operation of the City
The primary purpose of the emergency clause is to make the item effective immediately upon adoption based on the needs defined. The purpose is not to “rush” the process, or to get an item submitted for consideration without following standard practices including vetting at open public committee meetings.
Emergency can be defined as “an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action” – Merriam-Webster. In this sense, emergency is a sudden, unexpected, or impending situation. To hear the term “emergency”, one often relates something similar to a tragedy or disaster, and emergency legislation does not require such a standard.
For Example…The City is has been notified of a grant opportunity and applications are due within 30 days of notice (common). In order to meet the deadline while discussing and presenting the legislation within the open public committee and the full Council meeting, it would be necessary to have the action take effect immediately upon adoption to meet the application deadline.
However, we understand that there is misunderstanding and concern about the use of the emergency clause; therefore, we are making every effort to pre-plan and make best use of available open meetings for item discussions.
What the City is Doing:
One of the things I first examined upon being appointed City Manager is our process of creating Council agenda items. That process includes staff preparation of information and documents to be included in the meeting packets. One of the improvements we have made is the availability of the packets as early as possible prior to the scheduled open public meetings. Currently, the packets are getting out at least 4 days earlier than the required 24 hour notice. Next, staff is working hard to get items scheduled to the open public meetings at the earliest practical time in order to allow for multiple readings of agenda items. Currently, we have decreased the number of items waived and passed in one meeting by 50%.
Understanding that every agenda item is first presented and discussed at an open public committee meeting prior to a regular Council meeting, there will still be some items in need of either an emergency clause, waiving of the second and/or third readings, or both. This action is taken only as necessary to maintain important operations for the City. However, we are determined to send any item that does not have an emergent need for immediate adoption to multiple meetings and readings for additional information and discussion.
Q: What will the official ballot language be for Issue 9?
A: Shall the Ordinance providing for a 0.25% levy on income for a period of 10 years beginning January 1,2015 and continuing until December 31,2024 for the purpose of Police and Fire Public Safety and Support be passed?
- For the Income Tax
- Against the Income Tax
Q: When will I get a chance to vote on Issue 9?
A: General Election to be held November 4, 2014