Mayor Ruth Marlatt offers state of village 2012.02.01

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Fayette’s financial condition is leading the mayor to suggest a change in village government.

Mayor Ruth Marlatt, in her State of the Village address given last Wednesday, suggested the village should turn away from hiring a new administrator and instead return to a board of public affairs.

Members of a board of public affairs would take the role of an administrator in managing public utilities (sewer and water) and setting water rates. Sewer rates would still be established by the village council, along with any major policy decisions regarding utilities.

The board would also supervise public places, streets and sidewalks.

Board members would initially be appointed by the mayor, with council’s approval, and successors would be elected.

Marlatt justified the suggestion by noting the changes in village finances since the 1970s when an administrator was first hired.

She said the use of an administrator made sense back when Fayette had the largest employer in the county—Fayette Tubular Products—but more than 1,200 jobs were lost as the company shrunk and finally closed. What Fayette experienced in the 1990s, she said, spread across the country in recent years.

The administrator’s salary is supported by the water and sewer fund, and removing that cost would help the budget.

Marlatt said that one mill generated about $14,200 last year and will shrink to about $12,750 this year due to falling property values.

A family health care policy for a full-time village employee costs the equivalent of about one mill. The police budget equals 15 mills, legal fees cost 1.36 mills, street light operation costs 1.65 mills, etc.

“It all adds up,” the mayor said. “We not only need to be frugal, we need to actively engage with those who make decisions that impact our village’s revenue streams. We no longer can be complacent with respect to the redistribution of locally generated tax revenue through County and State agencies.”

Reductions in the state’s local government funds has cost the village the equivalency of three mills over the past decade. Additional losses have come through the creation of the Commercial Activity Tax.

The village directs 12 mills of taxes to the county government.

“We need to encourage our Commissioners to be good stewards of the nearly 12 mills we send their direction for the support of countywide initiatives,” the mayor said. “As representatives of Fayette, we need to openly assess the performance of economic development agencies and planning bodies and service providers to ensure our residents achieve a fair return on their investment.”

Marlatt urged council members to be vigilant regarding Fayette’s resources.

 “Today’s economic climate has stimulated the predatory instincts of those who wish to consolidate control and management with the effect of flowing wealth away from local communities.

 “Fayette is not without valuable and sustainable site specific natural resources. We are not alone in recognizing their value. Our responsibility is to see that those resources are managed in such a way that benefits our residents, both in the short and long term.”

With Fayette’s location in the Michindoh Aquifer, the village has a source of water found nowhere else in the county.

Dean Genter, a county commissioner seeking reëlection, spoke to council members that night about the need for a county-wide water study. Portions of the county are served by water purchased from Toledo and Genter said the price continues to increase.

Mayor Marlatt thanked Fayette citizens for their volunteer efforts and for serving on various boards and committees.

She mentioned the opening of three downtown businesses in the past year and upgrades made at three other businesses.

Local jobs accounted for 67 percent of general fund revenue last year through withholding taxes, and she noted that local industries have either grown or remained steady.

She also reviewed local projects such as the widening of Gamble Road, completion of the Northwest Fulton Street lift station project and near completion of the first phase of sidewalk improvements for pedestrian safety.

Marlatt urges residents to “stand taller.”

“At times we have all heard disparaging remarks about our community,” she said. “That’s interesting considering the fact that when we travel to other Main Streets we find a higher percentage of vacant store fronts and empty industrial sites.

“I do not make this statement as a boast. In Fayette, we know what it is to experience loss and we wish those communities well as they face their own set of challenges. I simply want to offer a different perspective.”

In the past 15 years, she said, elected officials have overseen an upgrade to the water treatment plant, costing more than$300,000; installed new water wells, costing at least $1.2 million; completed five projects in the effort to stop combined sewer overflows (CSO); and relocated the school to a new facility.

“As stated before, our hands are full,” she said. “And, while some might characterize the challenges as too great for the community to bear, this is an opportunity for our community to do what it has always done. To persevere, to respect our neighbors and to treat others as we hope to be treated.

“There are answers to the challenges we face. We just need to keep working together to find those answers.”

• The entire text of Mayor Marlatt’s address can be found at statelineobserver.com. Look for the Local Stories link.

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