Kevin Corcoran had plenty of things he wanted to do in his first year as mayor of North Ridgeville. Dealing with fallout from COVID-19 was definitely not one of them.
Among his ambitious 2020 plans was overseeing the Center Ridge Road widening, which has had one of the city's main thoroughfares torn up since 2018. He reported good news on that front. “The contractor moved additional employees to the job site to get more work done faster. In addition, the decrease in traffic lets them move quicker,” he said. The work will be almost finished by the end of the year, he added.
One the other hand, Center Ridge Road businesses that are largely small and locally owned, experienced customer dropoff during construction. With coronavirus, they were dealt a double whammy because they were deemed non-essential and had to close, or, if open, saw business slow even further because people were at home. “A time like this certainly doesn't help,” Corcoran said, adding that he was particularly concerned about the ability of local restaurants to survive.
Corcoran noted that while unique, the city does not have the vast retail Avon has. He said city officials are also keeping an eye on their larger employers. Companies like Riddell, best known for its football helmets and other sports equipment, are open and now ramping up, he said.
Given that income tax is the largest revenue contributor supporting municipal operations, he's concerned. “It makes it difficult for me to make decisions when I don't know the full impact,” he said about the ability of the economy to bounce back. “We're trying not to overreact, but to take a measured approach to this.”
He was hopeful three levy renewals to support police, fire and road and bridge work projects would pass, because they had received great past support. Unofficial results from the Board of Elections showed each passing by a wide margin.
Even with that bit of good news, Corcoran has still asked department heads to plan for up to 20% reductions in their budgets. The renovation of Fire Station No. 2 has been delayed. Reductions in gas tax revenues may affect future road projects, the mayor said
“There are things we are trying to do and do them responsibly,” he said, while acknowledging there could be a lot of difficulty ahead. With everything changing so rapidly, it’s even more challenging to get a good grasp. Meanwhile, he personally tries to do his part by spending locally, including ordering carryout from local restaurants.
“We'll get through it,” he said. “I know times are difficult, but things will be better in the future and we look forward to peace and prosperity as we move forward.”
The mayor provided the following answers to a West Life questionnaire.
Is your community considering any personnel furloughs or layoffs? Yes, everything is on the table. No decisions as yet. We're staying on top of revenue as it comes in from different sources. We're trying to do everything possible to keep everyone employed.
Do you have a hiring freeze in place? Yes.
Will summer recreation/pool help be hired this year? Not sure what kind of programs we'll be able to have. We've already canceled Safetyville. Not sure if we will have a baseball season or not.
If you are hiring for any positions, what are they? See above.
Are you cutting or terminating any programs? Which ones? For what duration? A number of events are canceled, including soccer league and spring sports. The Memorial Day parade is canceled and the Chamber’s community garage sale is canceled. Plans for July 3 fireworks are contingent on further discussion with the state and county health department.
Have you gone forward or halted building projects or renovations? Please elaborate. Ranger Way has started and will be completed. The city had planned several infrastructure projects, but all could be subject to change based on finances including the Barres-Stoney Ridge Roads realignment.
How much was the community's income tax revenue down in March compared to March 2019? RITA is projecting a loss of $1.1million in income tax revenue for 2020.
Have other revenue streams been impacted? Which ones? What is the anticipated aggregate amount of this loss for 2020? While Mayor's Court is open, fewer tickets are being issued. Revenues from hotel tax, the local government fund and gas tax will fall.
What cuts to the budget will be made other than personnel and services? Directors have been asked to reduce budgets by 20%.