By Daniel Downs
City management claims the proposed income tax levy (Issue 9) will allow them to rehire six police and fire employees. The proposed levy also will be used for streets and other capital improvement projects. When looking at the 2009 State Audit Report, the employment data does not match the levy rhetoric.
Consider the following:
In 2009, the City of Xenia reported having 297 employees. The number of total city employees for 2007 was 290. That means the city had more not less employees last year than the past two years. If city officials laid off 6 police and fire employees, how can there more employees than in 2008?
The employment conundrum only gets more interesting.
In the same financial report for 2009, the total number of full time equivalent employees numbered 216.5, but in 2008 the total was 227.5 and 227.25 for 2007.
I have heard of “Two and a Half Men,” but a quarter!
The difference between the employment figures above shows the city actually laid off 11 full time employees, none of which adds up to 297 or 290.
By now, you smart readers have figured out that the large differences between 297 and 216.5 employees is probably due to volunteers who are considered employees. If the 60.5 employees are not volunteers, then who the heck are they?
Accounting for the 60.5 volunteers-employees does not solve the entire conundrum. According to the State audited report, Xenia laid off 9 full time and 2 part-time employees plus 2 employees retired. This adds up to 13. City management wants to rehire 6 laid off security personnel. So who were the other 5 employees the city let go?
Let’s look at a summary of changes in city employment for 2009:
Out of all the lay-offs, transfers, and new positions, it is difficult to pinpoint who the 5 actually were. We know for certain that the number of police and fire personnel actually laid off were 4 and not six in 2009.
Did you notice only one fire fighter was laid off? Did the Second Street fire station (No. 2) employ only one fire fighter? He must have been one tired professional working 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
Interestingly, closing fire state no.2 and laying one fire fighter did not decrease expenditures of the fire department. Instead of offsetting a $500,000 decrease in tax revenue, expenditures increased $26,000 in 2009.
Just when I was certain the conundrum was resolved, city council sent out a “Vote No on Issue 10” postcard claiming the passage of the 1/2% income tax levy will enable the city to bring 12 laid off public safety officers. Since when did the city lay off 12 fire and police officers? Not last year! It just so happens the city laid off 5 police officers and 2 fire fighters in 2004. Adding those laid off in 2009, the number of laid off safety personnel equals 11.
So what’s 1 lost employee anyway? Maybe he/she fell into the black hole of political rhetoric.
It is true the city had less revenue in 2009, which is actually part of a recurring trend in municipal finance. The 10-year history of the city’s revenue and expenditures shows this trend occurs every 2-3 years. This time around the decreased revenue stream is the result of government bureaucrats in Washington and their fellows in the state house as well as reckless lenders. In the financial report, city management reported a 12% unemployment rate for Xenia. Because of this, it is claimed city tax revenues have decreased. It is true some taxpayers are without jobs; some have moved away; and some small business owners who are still in business remain concerned about the possibility of a double-dip recession. Yet, if the number of tax filers is any indication, employment among residents actually increased in 2009. The number of tax filers increased by 76 among last year. The problem with more individual income tax filers was less income tax revenue. According to the financial report, their contribution to the city’s general revenues was down by $4,400. It is clear the nearly $500,000 decrease in tax revenues was not the result of unemployment. It was the result of both recessionary effects on business and property values.
Once the economy fully recovers, city tax revenue will exceed pre-recession levels. The lost employee might be found and 6-11 new safety personnel hired. That is as long most of the nearly 3,000 new residents remain and new businesses replace those the recession closed.
Because of all these factors, Xenia voters should say NO to the municipal tax levy (Issue 9); NO to the fire and police unions’ ordinance that will force Xenia taxpayers to hire previous or new employees and allow them to increase expenditures (Issue 10); and YES on Issue 11, which will enable the city to hire part-time employees until unemployment is reduced to post-recession levels and the economy is viable once again.