Mayfield finances doing well, despite pandemic

MAYFIELD, Ohio — The COVID-19 pandemic economy has been tough on some individuals and communities but, amid the uncertainty, Mayfield seems to be holding its own.

During Tuesday’s (Jan. 19) online Village Council meeting, Finance Director Ronald Wynne related to council 2020 financial figures that were, in crucial areas, on the positive side.

Wynne said he budgeted for $707,000 in property taxes to be collected in 2020.

“When the pandemic started,” Wynne told council, “the county told us we should project a potential decrease of about 10 percent in those revenues for this year. Our actual numbers for the year came in at $737,000. So we actually came in above budget.”

In 2019, income taxes collected amounted to $20.3 million. Wynne said he budgeted conservatively for 2020, even before COVID-19 struck, projecting income tax collections to total $17 million.

“Our actual numbers for 2020 came in at $21 million,” he said.

There is, however, some uncertainty. Wynne said he is continuing to keep an eye on two things regarding city income as 2021 and the pandemic continue.

“One is what will (continuing) to work from home look like once this (pandemic) is all over,” he said, “and the other is the status of potential refunds that might be filed by taxpayers.”

With many people working from home over the past 10 months, workers have challenged whether they must pay taxes to those communities where their workplaces had been located. Some of those people are asking for refunds.

Wynne said he recently attended an online Regional Income Tax Agency (RITA) webinar on the subject. It is a big issue in the village, where Progressive Insurance employs thousands who are now working from home.

“That’s (the refund issue) pretty much going to be decided in the courts,” Wynne said.

A key legal case pertaining to the refund question is The Buckeye Institute vs. City of Columbus and the State of Ohio. Wynne said those with whom he has spoken believe this will be a case that will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.

“It’ll be quite some time until (the case) gets to that (Supreme Court) point and we get a final decision on it,” he said.

For now, RITA has included on its tax form a box a taxpayer would check if they are seeking a refund. If the box is checked, Wynne said, that taxpayers’ return will be put on hold until a court decision is made.

As for hotel and entertainment taxes, Wynne had initially budgeted $240,000 in revenues for 2020. When COVID took hold, he reduced that figure to $160,000, but the actual figure at year’s end was $139,000, about $101,000 below what was budgeted.

“We’re starting to see a very slow return back to normal with those (hotel and entertainment taxes), but it is going to be a slow crawl to get us back to the level we used to be,” he said.

On another matter, Wynne said that the village’s investment earnings in 2019 amounted to $729,000. The budgeted figure for 2020 had been reduced to $360,000, as the Federal Reserve had already reduced its fund rate prior to COVID’s arrival.

The actual figure came in at $301,000, making for a shortfall of about $59,000. For 2021, Wynne is currently projecting earnings of only about $77,000.

Because of the pandemic, the village reduced its capital spending in 2020 from a projected $11.5 million to $3.4 million. Wynne said the village has debt totaling $3.4 million, but that it is fully funded, as there is $3.7 million in Mayfield’s debt service fund to take care of principal and interest payments when they become due.

Term limit ballot issue

Voters will decide March 16 whether there should be term limits applied to council members and the position of mayor. If voters approve, each of the elected positions would be limited to two four-year terms.

Law Director Anthony Coyne said that the upcoming issue of Voice of the Village, mailed to each household, will include an article written by Coyne about the special election and a complete text of the ballot issues.

Ohio Ethics Commission

Coyne also replied to a resident who asked, via email during the council meeting’s public portion, about an alleged case before the Ohio Ethics Commission involving council and Mayor Brenda Bodnar. The resident asked why city leaders haven’t addressed the issue.

“I’m not aware of a pending Ohio Ethics Commission investigation regarding the mayor or council, as a whole,” Coyne said. “Further, and secondarily, we should be mindful that the Ohio Ethics Commissions’ investigations regarding any elected official in any community are strictly confidential until the investigation is complete, and therefore, it should not be commented upon.”

The resident spoke of an alleged ethics issue pertaining to no-bid contracts being awarded.

“There are not any no-bid contracts between the village, or any elected official of the village,” Coyne said.

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