Tag Archives: city council

Does Passing Issue 10 Make Any Sense?

By Daniel Downs

Xenia fire and police want us to believe passing their proposed charter amendment (Issue 10) will guarantee the continued safety of Xenia citizens and their property. What it will actually accomplish is force taxpayers to maintain no less than 42 full-time certified fire fighters and 46 full time police officers at all times no matter the cost to the city. City council claims passing Issue 10 will bankrupt the city by 2013.

Bankrupting the city does not make sense.

Issue 10 will also require the city to adhere to a staffing norm of 1.5 fire fighters per 1,000 population and 1.7 police officers per 1,000 population. The latest financial report has Xenia population at 27,314 and the above minimum number of safety personnel reflects this normative formula. However, the current number of police is 69 and fire fighters totals 41 not 46 police and 41 fire fighters.

Why then does Xenia employ 69 police officers rather than 46? The answer is response time and supervisors. Many years ago, city management and council decided they wanted police to respond more quickly to calls. That meant adding more police officers and supervisors per shift to guarantee the results.

Employing more police for quicker responses to calls does make sense.

What does not make any sense is allowing fire fighters to reformulate requirements that will result in more supervisory staff. It appears fire fighters are attempting to set a minimum number of fighters without clearly delineating the requirement for more supervisory and administrative staff to support them. If this is so, they are misleading voters to get what the police have–more personnel. The problem is no one sees the need for more fire fighters. In fact, city officials didn’t see the need for less either. Only 1 fire fighter was laid off, according to the city’s state audited financial report.

Failing to provide for a reduction of safety personnel should Xenia population significantly decrease only makes sense if you are trying to pass a 1/2% income tax levy. It’s the good cop-bad cop routine.

Whether or not this was intended, Issue 10 still lacks provision to reduce safety personnel in case of decrease on population. For example, if Issue 10 passes and Xenia population grows to 30,000, the city will be required by law to hire 4 more certified fire fighters. But, if the recession caused enough people to move away that the population shrunk back to 24,164 as it was in 2008, city could not lay off 5 police and 5 fire fighters.

It does not make sense to employ more safety personnel unless to improve call response times or prevent crime.

A question still needing an answer is how many residents are there now? Put differently, how many residents have moved away since the recession? According to recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Xenia population grew to 27,437, which is an increase of over 3,291 since 2007.

Assuming all of the new residents live in family households and average $20,000 of taxable income, the city should have seen an increase of nearly $400,000 in income tax revenue per year. That does not include any additional property tax increases. In actuality, the city reported $555,025 less income tax revenue, which means most of them became unemployed, some of them became unemployed and some other did as well, or census estimates are wrong. In actuality, the number of taxpayers increased by 76 in 2009 but paid $4,468 less income taxes. This suggests that most of the decrease in income tax revenue was the result of significant decline in local business revenue.

It does not make sense for taxpayers either to make up lost revenue for local business or to add more safety personnel when local unemployment rate is 12 percent as reported by city officials.

Issue 10 will also create an unfunded mandate, which is the reason past and present city council members oppose it. It does make any sense to pass a law that will cost taxpayers more money without creating legal means to fund it.

Passing Issue 10 simply does not make any sense, which is a good reason to vote NO on November 2.

Why Are City Officials Investing In Community Surveys and Public Relations Services Now?

On Thursday February 11, 2010, Gazette News-Current ran a story titled “Positive changes planned for Xenia in upcoming year.” The story is about city officials’ noble efforts to improve communications between themselves and residents. At the recommendation of city management, Council approved a one-year contract with Columbus-based Avakian Consulting to accomplish it. The idea is to “help residents understand what is going on and how it affects them,” and by doing so, “remove the barriers between residents and their city officials,” according to the Gazette.

Barriers! What barriers?

The answer to that question, at least in part, may be found in exploring the expertise of Avakian Consulting. Among Avakian’s areas of expertise, I found three worthy of consideration. They are in public policy. community research and engagement, as well as municipal funding campaigns. It was these three professional competencies that obviously provided city officials the justification to award Avakian a one year contract worth $25,000.

One logical conclusion that can be made based on the above is city officials are going to use Avakian to help residents see that Xenia really needs to pass the May income tax levy. I base this conclusion on the fact that passing the May levy is a matter of public policy (city officials passed a ballot issue to raise funds); it is also a fact that public policy includes selling the tax increase to Xenia voters (the reason employing Avakian expertise).

One can only hope that Avakian will only get paid if the income tax levy passes.

The above conclusion is further supported by references to the community survey conducted by WSU’s Urban and Public Affairs department at a cost of about $4,000. What the Gazette’s story didn’t mention was the reason for the survey. During a November City Council meeting, city manager Percival stated the purpose of the survey was to determine what taxpayer were willing to spend their money on and use that information to pass the May tax levy. The goal was not just to improve communication with residents, change the bad image of Xenia, or to boost retail downtown. The purpose is to increase taxes, rehire those who were laid off, pay for salaried management’s overtime–itself a form of double-dipping, possibly hire more police and fire fighters, maybe building them new buildings, and if residents are lucky, they might even pave the streets–but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

One can only hope Xenia residents will provide Avakian’s community engaging promos with a grain of healthy yet critical skepticism. It is only their tax dollars city officials are spending to convince them to give them more of their earnings.

I still think providing an annual report to all residents written so that all could understand is the best way to inform the community about what is going on. It would cost about the as the community survey too. Of course, doing so would give residents a true picture of the financial status of city operations. The problem with that is a $1 or 2 million does not seem so dire a need in light of revenue totaling around $30 million, a third of which is paid by water, sewer and sanitation fees and deposited in enterprise funds. Yet, this type of information would make residents as informed as any other stake-holder or investor in corporate finance. The City of Xenia is a municipal corporation.

Oh, did I forget to mention Buxton? XCJ will feature Buxton in a later post.