Feb
23

The Stow Turn-Around Project

On the date of my first inauguration in January 2010, Stow was in big trouble financially. Stow was running million-dollar deficits. The city had $31,640,000 in debt. The rainy-day fund was dwindling. In fact, these were the reasons that I ran for city council, as a 24-year-old law student.

Fast forward to February 2018, and the story is much different. Last year, Stow had a budget surplus of $315,000. Our rainy-day fund is at an all-time high of $5.4 million. The city’s debt has been cut in half — to $15.5 million. Our bond rating is excellent.

Indeed, in 2010, Stow’s finances were a disaster. But today, I’m very proud to report that Stow is in exceptional financial health. We have turned around our finances, where almost every other city has struggled.

How did we do it?

  • We stopped shooting ourselves in the foot. First and foremost, we had to stop doing stupid stuff. I started asking tough questions. We ended the echo chamber that was created by City Council’s “go along to get along” attitude.
  • We controlled costs. By reducing our workforce, we closed the deficit. But we did it with prudence. Some jobs lead to revenue (i.e. economic development) and other jobs are critical for city services (i.e. cops). We bolstered those departments while allowing attrition to cut costs in other places where it was appropriate.
  • We became business-friendly. The business community was not happy with Stow when I was first elected. I urged a paradigm shift. Our team needed to accommodate the needs of business, because without business, we have no good-paying jobs, and we have no way to pay for city services. Instead of saying “no” when our employers approached us with a reasonable request, we needed to find a way to get to “yes.” I also urged Stow to out-compete and out-hustle its neighbors in attracting new businesses. As a result of the paradigm shift, Stow has been growing at a great pace over the last five years. 2017 was our best year ever, and 2018 looks even more promising (MAC-TAC and Wrayco buildings being filled with exciting new good-paying jobs).
  • We resisted the urge to raise taxes. Everyone at City Hall knew Stow’s finances were terrible in 2010. On top of that, in the years that followed, the State Legislature choked off two big sources of our revenue (local government fund and estate tax). The question was, how do we deal with these challenges? Some elected officials pushed for a tax increase. I felt that we could accomplish more with less, and believed that a tax increase would hurt our residents and hinder our ability to keep and attract employers. We succeeded in resisting an increase in taxes. If we had succumbed, Stow residents would have less cash in their pockets and our community would have fewer good-paying jobs.

Last night, Council heard a presentation about our 2018 budget. The outlook is great. We must sustain it. But we must also find a way to invest better in our infrastructure. Our roads have improved a lot since 2010, but we still have catching up to do. This year, I want to spend time and thought in finding a way to fund a large infrastructure investment.

Jan
26

My notes from last night’s meeting

Here are my personal notes from last night’s city council meeting:

Downtown Stow – Council took another step toward Downtown Stow by introducing legislation to create a Community Entertainment District. What is that? It’s a mechanism that allows 15 extra liquor permits in a given area, so long as there will be $50 million in new investment into an area of at least 20 acres. Liquor permits, of course, are critical for the development of restaurants. Also, these permits are 1/10th the cost of a normal permit. This measure will receive 3 readings before council votes on it, but it’s an indispensable step in our progress. … In related news, sometime in February, our consultant will be presenting its report to City Council. You’ll want to be part of that meeting.

Regulation on paintball guns and b.b. guns – The police department proposed an amendment to Stow’s laws to prohibit anyone under 18 from possessing a paintball gun or b.b. gun, unless there is parental supervision. The purpose of the amendment is to stop kids from using these toys with criminal intent. I feel the new law is unnecessary and overbroad. It was held in committee, and unless it is substantially narrowed, it may die there.

Taxpayer Bill of Rights – Last but not least … Council reconsidered its vote to reject my Taxpayer Bill of Rights charter amendment. On Jan. 11, the measure failed because it required 5 votes, and only got 4. But last night, all 3 members who voted “no” on Jan. 11 changed their votes, and it will now appear on the May primary ballot. This is a huge win for taxpayers. Candidly, it’s something that is on my bucket list of things to do before I leave City Council.

As a reminder, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights will:

  • Prevent the city from raising income taxes without a vote of the electorate
  • Prevent the city from decreasing any income tax credit without a vote of the electorate (The most important credit is the resident reciprocity credit, which is of significant importance to Stow residents who work outside of Stow and already pay income taxes to another city. Without the credit, you could find yourself paying 2.5% to Akron and 2% to Stow.)
  • Require 5 votes of City Council before placing a tax increase or credit decrease on the ballot
  • Require any tax increase or credit decrease to be placed only on a November general election ballot

Next meeting – Council will meet next on Feb. 8. Please also consider joining the Stow Community Foundation for Pizza Palooza this Sunday at noon. Great event, and we plan to be a part of it.

Meeting Notes

Press Releases