Mayor Mihalik: Show Us The Numbers

April 19, 2013

City of Findlay Says Findlay Fire Department EMS Service Not Cost Effective

The events in Boston and West, Texas remind us that emergency services are critical to the safety and security of our City.  While the City of Findlay can count on support from outside of our community, when that call comes in and the clock starts ticking, the protection of lives and property will depend on the resource that the City of Findlay provides.

We must look for efficiencies to provide the best service at the lowest possible cost.  One idea that has been talked about is a plan that would allow the Findlay Fire Department to take over EMS services.  It would seem that some duplication of effort could be eliminated and efficiencies gained if the FFD would provide EMS services to our community.

I called two of our city council member to see if any thought was being given to this idea.  It was suggested that I call the Service/Safety Director Paul Schmelzer.  In my conversation with Mr. Schmelzer I asked if there had been any analysis on the idea of allowing the FFD to handle EMS calls.  I was informed by Mr. Schmelzer that despite the fact that a private company is able to provide EMS services and despite the fact that the Ohio Performance Audit has shown that Findlay is outside the norm by outsourcing EMS, it would cost Findlay in the neighborhood of one million dollars per year above what could be collected from insurance billing to provide EMS services.

When I pressed Mr. Schmelzer on the details, I was not convinced that thorough analysis had been performed.  Mr. Schmelzer assured me that he could stand by his number.  When I ask Mr. Schmelzer to make his analysis public, I did not get a clear answer to that request.  A call to Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik was not returned.

With an election just around the corner, I would again ask the administration to make public their reasoning and numbers in regard to their decision not to transition EMS service to the Findlay Fire Department.  I feel that Findlay could benefit from open debate of this important issue.


Lydia Leads, Epic Fail 2, The Campaign Pledge

November 16, 2012

The Courier Editorial Board has already addressed the long list of failures of the Mayor and Findlay City Council in their effort to make permanent the increase in the city income tax.  But the Courier did not mention the Mayor Mihalik’s biggest failure, the campaign pledge during her race for Mayor that the City of Findlay did not need to make the temporary ¼% income tax increase permanent.

The Courier was dead wrong when they wrote “Most people will accept her about-face”.  The Courier can apologize all they want for the Mayor’s flawed judgment.  Politicians need to be held accountable for the promises they make in “the heat of a campaign”.  It seems clear that Mayor Mihalik’s campaign pledge casted a long shadow over the effort to pass the income tax renewal.  The Mayor’s campaign pledge set up unrealistic expectations in the minds of her voters, it diminished her credibility once she did her homework and faced the reality of Findlay’s fiscal problems.

Mayor Mihalik was the only candidate for mayor to promise not to seek a renewal of the income tax.  All of the other candidates looked at the same facts and came to this same conclusion; the tax increase was necessary, not an easy thing to say for anyone running for office.  Was the Mayor’s campaign position based purely on ideology, was it her ego that drove her to believe she could simply outsmart the problem or was she simply unable or unwilling to back off a campaign pledge that give her an advantage in her run for the mayor’s office?

Whatever the reason, Mayor Mihalik’s failed judgment has done real damage to the City of Findlay.  So now Mayor Mihalik needs to put forward a plan to fix it.  Time for Lydia to lead!

See Findlay Courier Editorial “Defeated” here: http://www.thecourier.com/opinion/editoral/2012/Nov/08/ar_ed_110812.asp?d=110812,2012,Nov,08&c=e_0

See Findlay Courier Editorial “About Face” here: http://www.thecourier.com/opinion/editoral/2012/Jul/05/ar_ed_070512.asp?d=070512,2012,Jul,05&c=e_0


Lydia Leads, Epic Fail, City of Findlay Income Tax

November 8, 2012

The Editorial Broad of the Findlay Courier got it one hundred percent right.  Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik’s campaign for the city income tax was a disaster.

Read the editorial here: www.thecourier.com/opinion/editoral/2012/Nov/08/ar_ed_110812.asp?d=110812,2012,Nov,08&c=e_0


Findlay’s Income Tax: Unsustainable and Anti-growth

October 16, 2012

Demographics, the Decline of the Middle Class and the Wage (Income) Tax

In the run up to the November election for issue #3, the City of Findlay’s request to make the quarter percent temporary income tax permanent (for a total rate of 1.25%) has been hotly contested.  The debate over the tax renewal largely revolved around the question of whether Findlay has a spending problem or a revenue problem.  After a two hour meeting with the City of Findlay Auditor Jim Staschiak II, I discovered that the City of Findlay has a demographic problem.  This demographic problem could be systemic and long term.

In an effort to explain Findlay’s financial position, Mr. Stashciak produced a graph he named “What’s the Employment Trend?” that illustrates that the number of employed individuals in Hancock County dipped in 1999 and has remained flat ever since, while total population continued a slow but steady rise.

Our population is aging, which is not really big news.  But, when you add in other demographic and economic factors and you understand how the City Income Tax really works, we may find that the City Income Tax cannot sustain the City of Findlay’s operations or capital improvements.

Let’s start with the City Income Tax.  First, the City income Tax is really a wage tax.  The income tax does not tax investment income, pensions or social security income.  And while the city income tax does tax businesses, the revenue that the City of Findlay receives from businesses is just a small percentage of revenue collected from the income tax.  This disparity between what businesses pay and wage earners pay means that workers, in effect, pay the city tax for the services they use and for the businesses where they work.

The second thing we need to know is that with the elimination of other taxes like the tangible property tax and the estate tax and the cut backs in state revenue sharing, the city wage tax has become the primary source of city financing.

So, we already know that our population is aging which means that fewer people are directly supporting the finances of the city.  But a key number that I do not have is the per capita wage tax receipts.

With fewer workers supporting a larger population we are already starting in a hole.  But what if those workers are, on average, making less money?  Given the transition we have seen in Findlay of manufacturing jobs to the service industries and knowing that at least one major manufacturer in Findlay has a two-tier wage system, average wages could very well be in decline.  This combination of aging population and a workforce with a declining income or income that is not keeping up with inflation could spell real trouble for the City of Findlay.

If my hypothesis is right, the per capita wage tax receipts are in fact declining, that would mean the City of Findlay will be in a constant battle to match revenues with services.  It would also mean the traditional way of fixing a city’s flagging finances through growth could, in fact, make matters worse.

If we add businesses or build out subdivisions in Findlay that attract residents and workers that earn less and therefore pay less than our current per capita tax receipts, we would only be dragging down the average, making it harder for the City of Findlay to maintain its current level of services and provide service to support the growth.

We need to put some real math behind this issue.  We may find that the current tax base for the City of Findlay (and other cities in Ohio) that relies on a wage tax is unsustainable and anti-growth.

To find the graph referred to above and other information about the City of Findlay’s finances see the Auditor’s webpage: http://www.ci.findlay.oh.us/?id=57


Mayor Mihalik Responses to Fire Station Concerns Raised by Citizens for Findlay

October 10, 2012

Editor’s Note: Below is the text of a mass e-mail send out by Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik under the title Lydia’s Letters  (lydialetter@findlayohio.com).

Did you know…?

Findlay Fire Department

In a continuing effort to ensure that The City of Findlay is providing the citizens the most cost effective and efficient form of fire protection, we are currently evaluating the risks that our community faces as well as what resources we have available to respond to those risks.  Station placement, personnel, risk location, new ISO standards and apparatus capabilities will be matched to the risks this community faces.  Once the evaluation is completed and we are able to analyze the data relative to our available budget dollars we will make a determination as to the future of Findlay Fire Department operations. 

Fire Station #4 has been mentioned in the Town Hall meeting.  Its proximity to risk levels are being examined.  At one point in time significant planned growth on the East side of town drove the need to construct an additional station.  Much of the planned growth has not taken place.  It is only logical that we examine the need for a continued operation at this location.

I have been clear that we are committed to examining all of our operations and this happens to be an example of one of the evaluations we are currently conducting.

I am proud of the work that our Fire Department carries out every day.  They are always there when we need them.  Through these potential efficiencies I am confident that we will be better positioned to respond to our risks. It is my goal is ensure that our families are kept safe and that we have adequate emergency response capabilities.

As always, please feel free to contact me directly if you have any additional questions.

Sincerely,

Signed Lydia Mihalik


Hancock County Democrats Support the City of Findlay Income Tax Renewal

October 9, 2012

Findlay, Ohio, October 9, 2012: At the regular monthly meeting of the Hancock County Democrats, on Monday October 8, 2012, the Party passed the following resolution:

The Democratic Party of Hancock County endorses Issue #3; the quarter percent income tax renewal for the City of Findlay.

It is the opinion of the Hancock County Democratic Party that this tax issue is necessary for the continued protection and benefit of the citizens of the City of Findlay.

While the Hancock County Democrats recognize that many changes at the Ohio state level of government have affected the revenue of the City of Findlay, and we may or may not agree with all of those changes, we feel that the tax renewal is in the best interest of our community.

The Hancock County Democratic Party stands with the Firefighters, Police Officers and City Workers of the City of Findlay

The Hancock County Democratic Party urges the citizens of the City of Findlay to vote yes on issue #3.


Higher Local Taxes Thanks to Gov. Kasich and Rep. Sprague

March 28, 2012

Higher local taxes are in your future thanks to Governor Kasich and Representative Sprague.  The elimination of the Estate Tax will cost the City of Findlay about .8 million dollars a year in lost revenue.  That is about 3.3 % of the city’s annual budget.  It may not seem like much, but when you add to that the loss of other sources of state funding and the roll back of the quarter percent emergency city income tax, the city of Findlay is facing a $4.9 million shortfall for the year 2013.

Rep. Robert Sprague and The Courier acknowledge that local taxes are bound to go up, but they believe that trading state taxes for local taxes is a good deal for the citizens of Ohio and Findlay.  I fail to see how trading one tax for another makes Ohio more competitive.

For a Governor that has his sights set on a presidential run in 2016, cutting the Estate Tax is all gain and no pain.  Governor Kasich can stick a nice feather in his cap by cutting the Estate Tax, long the whipping boy of the Republican Party.  Then Kasich will let local governments and local tax payers make up the loss of revenue.  Cutting the Ohio Estate Tax will play well with the Republican base at the national level, but where does it leave the Ohio tax payer?

I would ask; are Ohio’s Republican lawmakers using this budget crisis not only to shift the burden from the State to the Local level, but more importantly to shift the total of our state and local revenues to a less progressive and a more regressive tax system?   Elimination of the Estate Tax is the keystone in the Republican plan to shift a greater tax burden from the wealthy to working families.

In an environment where the state government is pinching local government at both ends with decreased funding and increased unfunded mandates to close the state’s budget gap, cutting the Estate Tax and placing a high tax burden on working families, in favor of the wealthy, seems irresponsible and wholly unfair.

Courier Editorial “Unbalanced”: http://www.thecourier.com/opinion/editoral/2012/Mar/23/ar_ed_032312.asp?d=032312,2012,Mar,23&c=e_0

Courier Editorial “Balancing Act”: http://www.thecourier.com/opinion/editoral/2011/Jun/21/ar_ed_062111.asp?d=062111,2011,Jun,21&c=e_0


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