Recently I was asked to speak at a management seminar to share my thoughts on management and leadership. I told the group that a good manager runs a tight ship. A leader makes sure the ship is heading somewhere and in the right direction. Good organizations need to be focused on both – running efficiently and heading in the right direction. They accomplish this with two sets of plans; an operational plan dealing with day-to-day duties and focused on this year, and a strategic plan, focusing on what the organization wants to look like in five years.
Willoughby has both operational and strategic plans in place. I thought I’d share some information from our operational plans this month and then address our strategic vision in next month’s column.
Operationally, Willoughby had a good year in 2014. Our General Fund income was about $25.8 million while our expenses totaled just over $25 million. This allowed us to add to our fund balance and finish with about $6.2 million in the General Fund. This amounts to 25% of our expenses, which is a very healthy position to be in. It is one of the reasons why Moody’s Financial Services has retained our Aa1 credit rating; the second highest rating they give.
This year we expect to finish with a slightly lower fund balance, depending on what we choose to do with projects and capital expenditures, and how well our income tax base is maintained. All in all, however, we expect to have a solid year.
Unfortunately, that cannot be said for many of our neighbors here in Ohio. Recent cutbacks in state shared taxes and the elimination of estate taxes and personal property taxes have crippled many communities. Cities like Willoughby, with a strong manufacturing base, as well as a solid base in healthcare and office and retail businesses, have weathered this storm better than most. We should give some credit to city leaders from 40 to 50 years ago for having the foresight to establish our industrial park areas and welcoming industry to the city. Willoughby has long had a reputation as a business-friendly city.
Operationally, our biggest concerns this year are in the area of roads and storm sewers. The last two winters were especially harsh, particularly for our roads. Our road program this year will be a combination of repair and replacement of asphalt and concrete. In other words, some streets will see a complete resurfacing while others will see spot repair. The goal is to get the best “bang for our buck” utilizing the funds provided by our road levy.
The City Council will be reviewing recommendations from the City Engineer on storm water upgrades and putting together a long term plan to address these needs. This will be a challenge as a recent study identified $18 million in high priority projects and a total of $40 million in needed improvements. The city has about $700,000 per year to spend on these improvements, so it will be necessary to prioritize the projects with the greatest need.
I’ll look forward sharing some of our strategic plans with you in the next column. Have a great month and a great spring.