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Ideas, Actions, People, and Commentary in the City of Worthington

Record Revenues and Curbside Collections: City Finances, May, 2021

What’s the latest with City Finances?  Two important issues were discussed at last week’s Council meeting: record-high revenues in May, and increased costs for picking up your trash/recycling/yard waste.  Here’s a recap—

City Revenue:

An historic, record $3.8 million in income tax revenue was collected by the City in May, 2021 (the prior record was $2.9 million in May of 2014).  This brings the year to date (YTD) income tax revenue to 19% above last year’s total, but, more significantly, to 15% above budget.  This is good news (income taxes account for ≈ 3/4 of total City revenues).  Our Finance Director, Scott Bartter, is normally quite accurate in his projections (usually within just a few points), so this strong performance bodes well moving forward.  June looks to be robust too.

All three sub-categories—Withholding, Individual, and Net Profit—performed well in May, with Net Profit (of businesses) coming in at a 76% increase YTD over 2020’s numbers, and Withholding registering a 13% increase.  The monthly income tax report can be found here (https://www.worthington.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/3796), with pg. 3 displaying a ten year history by month.

Why is this happening?  Simply, our income-generating, micro-economy is doing well.  As I see it, this strong, resilient economy of ours is rooted in long-term, structural strengths—favorable location, distinctive community character, and a talented population, to name but a few key factors.  There’s much more to do, of course, but we stand on a firm foundation.  The full May financial report can be found here (https://www.worthington.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/3795), and all archived reports here (https://www.worthington.org/Archive.aspx?AMID=37).

Solid Waste Collection:

Also discussed was the need to negotiate a new solid waste collection contract, to go in to effect 1/1/22.  I have to admit that prior to the meeting, I thought that discussions of trash/recycling would be a real sleeper.  But I was wrong.

For starters, the money involved is very significant.  The city is currently paying over $1 million dollars/year for the curbside pickup of our trash, recycling, and yard “waste.”  And—the focus of our discussions—costs are expected to increase substantially (for a number of industry-related reasons) by ≈ $300,000/yr with the new contract.  The other reason this issue is important, is the direct impact that recycling vs. landfill has on our overall efforts to live wisely (i.e., sustainably).

Several observations: The entire bill for this curbside collection service is paid for by the City (and not billed individually to each household, as is the case in other communities).  I firmly believe that this system of centralized payment by the City should be maintained, because a) we pay taxes for the very purpose of providing essential services, b) it is the most financially efficient (it would cost about a dollar per household per month to direct bill), and c) it is most effective in achieving maximum recycling participation.

FYI, the new curbside collection contract is expected to amount to ≈ $225/household per year.  This $225 is just slightly less than half of the average property taxes that homeowners send to the City of Worthington (keep in mind that ≈ 67% of your property taxes go to the schools, and just 6% to the City; see the graphic at bottom).  Repeat: the cost to the City of paying for household solid waste collection is equivalent to almost half of the property taxes that the average homeowner sends to the City.  I don’t say this to try to minimize the impact of taxes on our homeowners, particularly those on fixed incomes, but rather to put in to perspective where our tax dollars go.   

Worthington is paying significantly less—at least 10% less—than other neighboring communities for our service. This is due to several favorable factors, including our relative compactness, logistical proximity to the landfill, single day pickup, and centralized billing (with the City footing the bill).

Our recycling “diversion rate” is high (within the top five in central Ohio), which, combined with yard “waste” collection, results in over 50% of solid waste in Worthington being recycled or composted.  This is good.  But let’s go for #1.

For a full review of this complex issue, I suggest reading the excellent overview memo, prepared by Rob Chandler (Assistant to the Director of Service and Engineering), here (pages 7-12, and the slide presentation pages 13-31): https://www.worthington.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/3809.

Stay tuned.

David Robinson

David Robinson lives in Worthington with his wife, Lorraine, and their three children who attend Otterbein University and Colonial Hills Elementary. David is President and co-owner of Marcy Adhesives, Inc., a local manufacturing company. David has served on Worthington City Council since January, 2018, and is deeply committed to 1) advancing resident-centered policies, 2) supporting responsible development that enhances our unique historic character, 3) endorsing environmentally sustainable practices for both residents and city operations, 4) promoting the safety and well-being of all residents, and 5) preserving the family-friendly nature of our neighborhoods.