By JOY BROWN
Balancing last year’s city budget went better than expected, but it wasn’t easy, Mayor Lydia Mihalik admitted Friday.
“We improved our financial picture. We went from facing a $4 million deficit in 2012 to seeing a $1.6 million surplus for 2014″ in the general fund, Mihalik said at a Hancock County Republican Party lunch.
“We’ve learned how to control our costs. Some would say that we’ve done so on the backs of employees,” Mihalik said, referring to layoffs in various departments at the end of 2012 and in May 2013, “and some of that is true.”
Skyrocketing health care expenses were a significant cause of the city’s previous budget woes, but changes made by the city last year resulted in significant savings.
“This year, our health insurance went down by 25 percent and we have a reserve in excess of $3 million,” Mihalik said.
Other positives are expected to happen in city government this year, but the mayor’s talk on Friday focused on 2013 accomplishments.
Last year “turned out a lot better than I thought it would, other than the major weather events we’re continuing to have,” she said.
“Locusts are next,” she joked.
Summarizing work in each city department, Mihalik started with the Findlay Airport, noting that drainage improvements were made and runway lights added.
Street paving and preventive maintenance last year increased in cost and scope from 2012. The Engineering Department analyzed every city street, using Ohio Department of Transportation standards, and creating a prioritized list.
The Findlay Health Department, once a financial drag on the city’s general fund, turned itself around with its billing program and quest to find extra funding sources, resulting in about $180,000 in revenue growth in 2013.
The Neighborhood Enhancement and Abatement Team organized its third annual Backyard Mission Trip, which involved 1,106 volunteers and 26 churches completing 166 outdoor improvement projects during two days.
The city wrapped up its water meter project, which replaced equipment and enables workers to remotely read the meters.
The Fire Department debuted Sparky the fire dog as a mascot, and the public works building that houses most of the department’s vehicles got its sinking floor replaced.
Mihalik also said the city has completed about 85 percent of the recommended improvements outlined in a state performance audit, completed in fall 2012.
This year’s $1.6 million general fund surplus “says a lot about the approach we’re taking to managing,” Mihalik concluded.
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