Missed Opportunities come home to roost
Village Residents that follow the political landscape in Mariemont are dismayed that Mariemont was ranked 28th among the suburbs in Greater Cincinnati by Cincy Magazine. Let’s try to sort out why Cincy Magazine might make this assessment. It certainly does not relate to our school system or safety services. Indeed, Mariemont is a safe, walk able community with many amenities that make it an outstanding place in which to live and raise a family.
Perhaps, our high comfort level with the way things are may breed complacency that fosters an acceptance of the status quo. In business school parlance, the residents of Mariemont might be “dumb, fat and happy” so why change or become circumspect as to why Cincy Magazine does not rate us amongst the very best suburbs? Maybe it may relate to the management of Village finances and strategic planning during recent years.
In 2014, the Village posted a General Fund budgetary loss for the first time in many years of $28,652. Also, the Permanent Improvement Fund or Capital Fund notably decreased by $183,272. Taken by themselves, these losses are fairly modest but they do suggest a downward trend in Village finances.
The financial position of the Village has been and will be impacted by the following factors.
- The loss of Ohio State estate taxes and subsidy that historically produced about $250,000 in annual revenues. Indeed, Governor Kasich has balanced the Ohio State budget by cutting back on the funds that the local communities receive from the State.
- The missed opportunity to form a JEDZ with Columbia Township which probably would have produced over $200,000 in unfettered annual revenues. This directly led to the formation of a JEDZ between Columbia Township and Fairfax.
- The possible winding down of Kellogg operations in the business district that would put $600,000 in revenues at risk (about 18 percent of the total budget).
- The continued maintenance of a fully-equipped independent Police, Fire and EMS service without sharing these services with surrounding communities.
With these threats to Village income, what is left to cut to balance the budget? At this time, it appears that the Village is poorly positioned to meet the coming financial crunch without higher taxes.
In retrospect, when the Village was flush with revenues during the past ten years, many strategic initiatives could have been undertaken to enhance the standing of the Village amongst the suburbs in Hamilton County. These might have included:
- Give financial support and incentives to rejuvenate the Historic District
- Plan and build a parking garage to alleviate the shortage of parking
- Renovate the Municipal Building
- Develop the South 80 into a recreational destination
- Hire a Village Administrator
- Work with surrounding communities to save money by sharing services
- Put in place a plan for a community center
- Use creative financing to foster business development
When I first heard that Mariemont was ranked 28th among the suburbs in Hamilton County, I was incredulous. However, this ranking does point to the fact that the status quo may not be good enough.