Akron Tries Variety of Ways to Raise Revenue
The city of Akron was one of 13 cities that the state auditor recently reported was in financial stress for fiscal year. But last month voters approved an income tax hike and city officials announced several new ways to raise revenue.
When Dan Horrigan became mayor 2 years ago a blue ribbon commission offered ideas on fiscal management and one of them was to monetize city assets. There’s been a flurry of that lately including selling empty lots, leasing cell tower sites, developing a block of vacant buildings on Main Street as the Bowery Project, and even harvesting the lumber from trees at their Geauga County reservoir.
“We’re asset rich with a lot of underperforming assets so whether it’s the Bowery Project or whether it’s something else we have we’ll certainly tale a look at shedding some assets that can be developable.”
Horrigan says officials weighed carefully the long term consequences of making deals today. The recent income tax hike, Issue 4, is earmarked for roads and safety forces but it does free up other money for items like a $1 billion debt.
“We have a significant amount of debt. And a lot of income tax goes to service that debt. I’m Working to retire some of that and increase revenue to be able to do that. Issue 4 helps on the capital side to build fire stations and pave more roads and alleviate some of the pressure on those.”
Horrigan says it would be easier if state legislators would stop cutting the cities’ share of state income taxes, known as the Local Government Fund. He notes the state has a two-billion-dollar rainy day fund.
“Our position is it may not be pouring out but it’s raining pretty good,” quips the mayor.
“So as you’re able to stabilize the rainy day fund a lot of communities – especially the Big Eight- have some needs out there, whether they be infrastructures, whether they be public safety. So that will be a continued focus for us is to change the Local Government Fund allocation.”
Akron has lost about $15 million due to state cutbacks since 2011.