Tallmadge -- Despite its share of challenges from "the lagging impact of the national recession," Mayor Dave Kline said the state of the city of Tallmadge is "sound."
Kline delivered the 2014 State of the City address in front of a crowd of 100 people during a Tallmadge Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting at the Community Center Jan. 15.
Kline touted the positive condition of the city's finances and acceleration of economic development activity as accomplishments of 2013.
He said the local housing crisis, slower collection of property taxes, some abandoned properties throughout the city, and a substantial loss of state revenue from the elimination of the estate tax -- $500,000 per year -- and a reduction in the Local Government Fund -- $1 million per year -- have affected the city's coffers, but through it all, the city's finances have persevered. At the end of the year, the city had an unencumbered $6.4 million in the general fund, up from $5 million at the beginning of the year.
Kline also underscored the conservative budgets over recent years and said efforts at saving money through collaboration with other nearby municipalities cut about $1 million annually from the budget, which the city has been recognized for on the state and federal levels.
"What we should be asking is not whether we need a big government or small government, but how we can create a smarter and better government," he said.
The city outsources its dispatching for police, fire and emergency medical services to Stow, income tax collection to the Regional Income Tax Authority, building department functions to Summit County and partners with the Tallmadge City School District for the tennis courts near the high school. It also partners with Brimfield Township for the Joint Economic Development District.
The projection for income tax revenue, which is collected at 2 percent, for this year is about $9.6 million, about the same as the $9.64 million from last year.
Kline noted income tax revenue is "growing again at a consistent rate," because of, in part, more commercial growth in the JEDD. For 2014, the city is projecting Tallmadge's share of income tax revenue for this area alone, collected at 1 percent, will be $500,000.
The city has maintained its Aa2 bond rating, which Kline said is the best rating cities the size of Tallmadge can earn.
Economic development is among Kline's list of other accomplishments, of which Rubbermaid and Bang Print Solutions top the list. Rubbermaid opened a distribution center in the JEDD last year and employs 150, about 50 more than the city originally expected.
Because of the Rubbermaid project, Kline said Team Neo recognized the city and its partners with the Regionalism and Cross-Border Award last year.
And after Bang Print Solutions, formerly Hess Printing, decided to stay in Brimfield Township instead of relocating out of state, the company committed to $4 million of new investment in the JEDD. The deal includes the retention of 247 jobs and the creation of 100 new jobs.
Other areas of the city Kline considers economic development hot spots are North Avenue, with Testa Companies' proposed "Tallmadge Town Center" mixed-use project to the north of City Hall, Akron General Health System's new urgent care center that's opening next month, and the anticipated rebirth of the former Big Boy restaurant into a 50s-style retro diner; South Avenue's AHEPA 63 apartment complex for low-income seniors; West Avenue car dealership renovations and future warehouse expansion of Martin Wheel Co.; and the redevelopment of Bumpas Commons at the Circle that features several eating establishments.
The city has 87 full-time employees, down from about 120 10 years ago. Kline said the city still functions as it did back then, but relies more on its larger number of part-time workers. Depending on the season, the city's entire workforce is between 150 and 200.
"We're a smaller but more efficient government," Kline said.
The Tallmadge Recreation Center recorded the most memberships in its history in 2013 at 5,127, as well as the most member visits at 272,675. Kline said when the facility opened about 10 years ago, the city hoped to get 2,000 members.
The operating profit for the Rec Center also reached an all-time high of about $200,000.
Goals for 2014
By the fall of this year, West Avenue from the Circle to the Tallmadge corporate line near Brittain Road will be repaved. The total cost of the project is estimated at $900,000, with the Ohio Department of Transportation footing 80 percent of the bill, or $720,000, and the city paying $180,000.
Some of the city's goals for this year also include spending $60,000 on park improvements and $180,000 to replace the original indoor soccer turf at the Recreation Center.
To address the limited space for new plots at the Tallmadge Cemetery, the first of multiple vault-like columbaria will be installed for cremated remains.
Kline also called for action to reduce the number of juvenile arrests in the city, which for 2013 totaled 558 and outpaced adult arrests by 74.
Kline also said the city will continue to collaborate with other municipalities and entities to share services and find new ways to offer quality services to residents, while working on updating its comprehensive master plan this summer and spending $350,000 to address the issues with the storm water system.
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