Commentary by Sylvia Hanneken
Macedonia’s departments’ operations costs are rising annually. Projected 2018 expenditures are 48.4% higher than 2013 expenditures. Let’s examine cost increases by Department in expense increase order:
- Macedonia Fire Department operations costs increased as a result of expanded operations. The Macedonia Fire Department operations expanded to include 2 added “substation” locations in Sagamore Hills and Northfield Center Townships in 2016-2017. 2017 was the first full year of the expanded operations. Using 2015 as the baseline for Macedonia only fire operations, the Fire Department cost taxpayers $1.85M. In 2018 the expanded Fire Department projected cost is $3.83M. Was this expanded activity fully paid for by the new service contracts with Sagamore Hills and Northfield Center? The answer appears to be no. The total fire contract contribution from Sagamore Hills and Northfield Center together is $1.125M annually. Some of the expenditure increase ($335,000+) is not a cost increase to Macedonia taxpayers, since these are insurance company collections/payouts for EMS ambulance runs performed by Sagamore Hills/Northfield Center substations. Still, there are unreimbursed costs of expanded operations for 2017 ($200,000+) and projected for 2018 ($300,000+) that need to be addressed with the townships since they are increasing costs for Macedonia taxpayers. Part of the problem may be the fact that Fire Department overtime costs are above anticipated levels. For example, projected Fire Department overtime for 2018 was $175,000. Looking at expenditures in the first 5 months of 2018, it appears Fire Department overtime costs will be double (closer to $350,000).
- Macedonia Police Department operations costs are on an upward trend. In 2013 the Police Department cost was $2.52M. In 2018, the projected cost for the Police Department is $3.3M. Some new costs have been introduced into the budget in 2017 for “Street Lighting” ($81+ thousand), but the primary increases are in salary, pension, hospitalization, overtime, etc. Perhaps the need for a Walmart police substation in our Macedonia Commons strip mall has impacted the costs?
- Macedonia Service Department operations costs have increased from $2.02M in 2013 to a projected cost of $2.77M in 2018. “Street Lighting” ($71+ thousand) has added costs. Overall, personnel cost increases (salaries, pension, hospitalization, overtime, etc) are the driving factors.
- Macedonia Dispatch Department (managed by the Police Department, but costed separately) increased in cost from 2013 ($460 thousand) to projected 2018 ($709 thousand). During this period, Boston Heights dropped our Macedonia Dispatch services and Sagamore Hills contracted for our Dispatch services in 2015, so the overall expenditure impact was negligible. Overall, increased personnel costs are the driving factor.
- Macedonia Finance Department operations costs increased from $339,268 in 2013 to a projected $759,600 in 2018. Some of this is due to an accounting change in 2017 that placed $200,000 in Regional Income Tax Authority (RITA) income tax collection fees in the Finance Department budget. However, a major part of the cost change is due to increased personnel costs, contracted services fees, and tax levy election costs. In 2017, the Finance Department took on the responsibility for income refunds to Macedonia residents as a result of the Issue 3 Macedonia income tax increase that went into effect July 1 2017, so it is possible that new responsibility has impacted personnel costs.
Basic Macedonia services are impacted by increasing expenditures for Macedonia department operations. That fact suggests a detailed review of all department costs is essential to protect taxpayers. Our Council has indicated it will propose another income tax increase to the voters in the November 2018 election before revenues from the Issue 3 income tax increase last year are confirmed and the impact evaluated. This is not playing fair with Macedonia residents.
My next commentary will address the November 2018 income tax increase proposed by Council with recommendations for an alternative approach that will not increase Macedonia income taxes.