PORTAGE | The city's coffers are replenished, thanks to receiving its spring property tax draw Wednesday.
And there is enough in there, said Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham and City Council President Sue Lynch, to allow Mayor James Snyder to lift a hiring freeze he imposed last month.
Stidham said the city's tax draw for the general fund was just more than $4.5 million. This year's budget was based on a tax draw of just less than $4.4 million. The city received 98 percent of the taxes due to it.
"All this says is we are going to get the revenue to fund the budget approved by the council," Stidham said.
Snyder initiated the hiring freeze last month citing an uncertain tax draw and the implications of a U.S. Steel tax appeal.
Stidham called on Snyder to immediately end the public safety hiring freeze and bring the police and fire departments up to full staffing.
Stidham also criticized Snyder.
"Instead of being prudent and relying on quality data from this office and past experience, the mayor overreacted and put the quality of our police and fire coverage at risk," Stidham said. He also said, contrary to Snyder's concerns, "the impact of the U.S. Steel assessment appeal was negligible."
"The fact that our collection was so high, gives an indication the impact was minimal," Stidham said.
"We must lift the freeze and employ those people," Lynch said. "As a council, we always thought we had the money in the budget."
Snyder, who is out of the country, issued a written statement Wednesday.
“We do not intend to deal with this complex situation through the news media. I have also reached out to Clerk-Treasurer Stidham to meet and discuss the draw. We saw the tax draw numbers today and are happy for the great news. Ninety-eight percent says the economy in Portage is coming back, residents are working, businesses are succeeding, and bills are being paid. It does not solve our structural deficit.
"When we have analyzed the numbers and talked with department heads, we will determine future hiring. Our City's budget is fragile, our roads and infrastructure remind us of this daily, and we will continue to strive to spend each tax payer’s dollar wisely.”
Stidham added that Wednesday's news doesn't mean the city if out of the financial woods.
"It doesn't mean we will have extra money to spend above and beyond what's been budgeted," he said, adding that spending outside of the budget still has him concerned about the city's finances.