The Cost of Anxiety, for City and self: Year-End Financials
During a recent Zoom meeting, I heard a senior member of our community say she was worried about city finances—due to the impact of covid, and because of the office vacancies she saw around town—and was concerned about our ability to maintain essential city services. Her face and voice revealed anxiety, which I take quite seriously. Anxiety, whether chronic or crippling, comes at a cost, robbing life of its joy in big and small ways. Further, nebulous fears tend to cloud our judgment and stifle creative thought, compounding the problem.
Anxiety takes many forms, but if based on falsehoods and misperceptions, then the antidote begins with a clear-eyed look at the truth of things, the facts. And so, what of City finances? Here are a few 2020 year-end numbers that I hope will allay anxieties:
- INCOME TAX REVENUE is UP: Income tax revenues for 2020 increased compared to 2019 ($26.5 million compared to $26.4 million).*
- CASH ON-HAND is UP: Our year-end General Fund Cash Balance increased to $18.4 million (compared to $15.3 million year-end 2019).**
It is important to keep in mind that the City was able to achieve this steady, positive performance even during a pandemic, as well as when other significant financial factors for the city were non-productive last year (e.g., the ≈ 200,000 sf Anthem building, and the former Holiday Inn site), and before major anticipated development projects commence (Mall redevelopment, Stafford, East Wilson Bridge Rd., etc., and the aforementioned Holiday Inn and Anthem). In sum, multiple, significant factors weighed against the City’s financials in 2020, and yet we still performed positively and, yes, our city services will continue uninterrupted, unthreatened.
Am I suggesting complacency or satisfaction with the City’s financial performance or development strategy? No, I am not. In fact, I am critical of how our development strategy too often fails to take in to account Worthington’s distinctive assets, and instead pursues generic concepts commonly seen elsewhere. I believe that differentiation, not imitation, is the way we maximize our appeal and value.
But what I am saying is that the basics of our City finances are strong and enviable, and that we ought to not feel anxious but rather aspirational. What are these fundamentals? Our ideal location, our schools, the abundant commercial/industrial zones, the historic and distinctive character of the built environment, a robust civic life, and, underlying and informing it all, the residents of Worthington that comprise our community. These factors are why, even in the face of serious headwinds, we are able to realize steady financial outcomes.
A central danger of anxiety, when unfounded, is that we may make foolish decisions out of fear that cause long-term, irreparable harm. This is true for the individual, and for the City.
* The December 2020 Department of Finance Report may be viewed in full here (pages 2-7): https://www.worthington.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/3658.
** And I posted earlier on the basic factors impacting the City’s finances in 2020 (https://davidrobinsonblog.com/2020/12/city-finances-update-11-30-2020/).