The Delaware Finance Committee will review on Thursday utility rate increases, updates to the city’s solid waste collection services and an issue with the Ohio auditor’s report about the city’s financial health.
Finance Director Dean Stelzer gave City Council a heads-up at its Jan. 23 meeting about Ohio Auditor Dave Yost’s new tool for Ohio communities to assess their financial health.
Two days after that meeting, Yost announced a new tool that generates “financial health indicators” for all 247 cities and 88 counties in Ohio. The initial release of information uses data from annual financial statements cities and counties have submitted through 2015.
“This effort has one goal: Help improve the financial health of our communities by providing a ‘fiscal physical’ to pinpoint potential problem areas,” Yost said in a statement released at the time. “Not every financial problem can be avoided, but this tool provides an early warning system to help identify those that can.”
The tool generates up to 17 financial indicators using data from a rolling four-year period. Depending on the data, each condition is designated as either having a critical, cautionary or positive outlook.
Delaware has one critical and one cautionary outlook for the ratio of its debt service to total revenues, and total liabilities to net assets, respectively.
Delaware’s debt-revenues ratio was at 48.87 percent, above the auditor’s 11 percent benchmark in order for the indicator to have a positive outlook. The city’s debt service was at $18,022,669 with total revenues at $36,878,500 in 2015, according to the report.
“The reason it’s in that category is because of our Glenn Road debt, not so much that we have that debt, but that we issue notes each year. So their report is picking up our $12 million of principal payment on our notes and almost assuming that we have to pay that every year into the future and that’s not the case,” Stelzer said at the Council meeting.
Stelzer said he would work with the auditor’s office to adjust the figure.
“It really is not a concern we should be in the positive outlook,” he said.
Further information was not available at the time, but city spokesman Lee Yoakum said in an email in late January that the issue would be discussed at the committee meeting.
“[Stelzer] is reviewing the data provided to gain a more complete understanding. He plans to do discuss the report in greater detail as an agenda item,” he said.
The committee will also discuss about raising water and refuse rates for the first time since 2012. Proposed increases of water and refuse rates would increase the residential utility bill by 2.86 percent. That would cost a family of four to five people, that would use about 800 cubic feet of water, $106.59 total per month compared with $103.63 in 2016.
“The refuse rate increase is tentative pending further policy discussions related to our refuse operation,” Stelzer said in a memo to the committee.
In July, Doug Price, the property manager of Olentangy View Condominiums, 1241 Rivercrest Drive, requested Council to allow his multifamily development to opt out of the city’s refuse service for lower-cost, private service alternatives as is allowed for commercial business customers.
Other representatives from other multifamily developments have questioned why the city does not allow them to seek a private refuse service, according to an executive summary of a draft 2017 Solid Waste Management Program Update.
It said: “Though a reasonable position to adopt may be to allow all customers subscribing to city dumpster collection service to consider private collection, it is generally anticipated that the loss of a significant portion of the multi-family customers would leave a customer base too small to justify the continuation of any public commercial refuse collection operations. Suspending commercial operations would result in an estimated $1.33 per month increase in residential rates to cover certain legacy costs associated with landfill management and general refuse overhead.”
Delaware started its publicly-managed solid waste collection service in 1951. The program now serves nearly 39,000 residents. Commercial collection operations serve 134 customers including 37 businesses, 80 multi-family developments and 17 city parks and facilities.
Aside from utilities, the committee will discuss a potential Joint Economic Development District with Berkshire Township at unspecified location. The two have a previous JEDD where Tanger Outlets mall is located near Interstate-71 on U.S. Route 36/State Route 37.
The township is requesting the city’s share of the proposed JEDD be reduced because Delaware received an “abnormally high share” with the previous JEDD at 40 percent, said City Attorney Darren Shulman in a memo to the city manager.
“Given the likelihood that this development will have less of an impact on the city than the outlet mall, this is not an unreasonable request,” Shulman said.
The committee will meet at City Hall, 1 S. Sandusky St., 4:30 p.m. in council chambers.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.