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Full Text of Mayor Healy's prepared remarks - 2015 State of the City Address

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Good evening and welcome to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the 2015 State of the City address. I would first like to recognize and thank our sponsors for this event—The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce represented by Denny Saunier, Aultman and Aultcare represented by Joe Novak and/or Jim Harris, Huntington Insurance represented by Mark Woessner, and Comp Management represented by Bobbijo Werren. I would also like to thank David Baker and the Pro Football Hall of Fame for their continued support and allowing us to hold this event here. Thank you all for your unwavering dedication to the City of Canton.

I would like to recognize Canton City Council and thank them for all their hard work, as well as the other city elected officials joining us today. Would all members of council please stand to be recognized? This is an incredibly dedicated hardworking group of people. Even though these positions are considered part-time, every one of these members works more than full-time to improve the quality of life in Canton. Thank you.

I would also like to thank you, the residents, business owners, and community leaders of Canton for your continued support and confidence in our administration over the past seven years. It is because of all of you that the future is bright for the City of Canton.

About 12 years ago my family and I were living on the East Coast and I was successfully running my own business.  No matter where I went, I used to brag about my hometown.  I would tell people that I was a graduate of Canton McKinley and from the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame!  I was proud of my hometown.  And then my father passed away. When I returned to Canton to take care of my father’s affairs, it gave me a chance to see what had happened to Canton while I was away. I was shocked.  Businesses had left town, homes were boarded up, gangs were running rampant, and what shocked me the most was that only half of our children were graduating from high school. I couldn’t understand how that was even possible, here in Canton, Ohio.  That’s when I knew I wanted to return home and try and make a difference.

When I was first elected my initial goal was to stop the decline. And then we were hit by the great recession where our unemployment rate had risen to 15%, the State cut millions of dollars in local funding, and our safety forces dropped to the lowest levels in 50 years. Despite all of the challenges, not only were we able to stop the decline, but we also created financial stability.  We began moving our city in the right direction, and today great things are happening in Canton.

To help us navigate through those difficult times, we assembled the most talented, educated, and professional management team in the city’s history.

I would like to recognize my Deputy Mayor Fonda Williams and my Cabinet for their personal and professional dedication and leadership to the City of Canton. Thank you. The citizens of Canton depend on you, and I depend on you.

In the back of the room we have photos of our entire management team and staff. These are the department heads and other individuals in key positions that fall under my authority as Mayor. These 31 individuals have 65 college degrees, professional certificates or licenses. This group also has a combined 150 years of management experience and 360 years collectively with the city. When you hire great people you should expect great things to happen, and they are.

I would like to take a moment to congratulate three specific individuals who were recognized this year by their peers as achieving the highest standard of excellence in their respective departments: Tyler Converse our Water Superintendent, Dan Moeglin, our City Engineer, and Tracy Mills, Superintendent of Water Reclamation. Congratulations and thank you for bringing excellence to the City of Canton.

In addition to this group, because I don’t want to leave anybody out, there are other key people serving under other elected officials, who all play an integral role in moving Canton forward. It is because of this incredible management team that I am able to stand before you today and say that great things are happening all over the city, and if you are not excited about Canton’s future, you haven’t been paying attention!  Let me just remind you of a few things going on:

VXI Global Solutions with over 1200 employees...Canton Brewery, New Downtown College Campus, United Way, the Lowest Unemployment rate in over 30 years …Infrastructure Upgrades, YMCA, First Fridays, Scholarships available to every student within our city limits…Brighter Tomorrow Plan, Foreign Direct Investment, Regionalism, families living in the Onesto Hotel after 40 years of sitting empty…COPs Grants, Big Concerts - Like Aerosmith, An evolving Oil and Gas Industry…Zimmerman Symphony Center, A New Computer Operating System, Demolishing over 1,000 blighted homes…Mahoning Road Corridor Project, Sr. Housing Developments, New Hotels, hiring More Police Officers… Canton Charge, CIRV, Evolving Enshrinements Festival, creating city-wide Comprehensive Plan…New Stadium, Highly Sophisticated Community Policing Strategies, the finest winery in the nation…Annexations, JEDD’s & CEDA’s, Market Square, spending local tax dollars on local workers… Mills Industrial Park, Consolidated 911 Dispatching,and the largest, cleanest, greenest waste water treatment plant in the world…To top it all off… the Hall of Fame Village Project! A project that will be the economic engine for Canton and the region for years to come!

The city of Canton has never seen this much activity and positive energy.  This is the current state of our city, and I’m here to tell you that this is just the beginning.   

In addition to building an all-pro management team, we have also made fiscal responsibility a top priority. Last year I reported that the city’s finances were the strongest in over a decade, and today I am going to share with you how the city is continuing to benefit from our overall financial position.

We have collected the highest income tax revenue in our history for the second year in a row. And we have continued to reduce our overall debt while investing in our equipment and infrastructure, all while maintaining healthy reserves in our enterprise funds.

There are some areas of concern however, as our general fund cash flow is still lower than it was before the recession. This is directly related to the cuts in the local government funds that have been made at the state level. So let’s take a closer look at our finances.

The City of Canton is a $254 million business with 32 Departments and over 900 full time employees participating in 5 labor unions.  As a statutory city, all three branches of government are represented including 22 elected officials and 13 different appointing authorities. As I have shared with you in the past, managing the city’s finances is a bit complicated.

We have many different funds that make up our overall budget, including enterprise funds, grant funds, capital funds, and of course the General Fund, which is what we spend most of our time talking about. The one thing you need to know is that you cannot comingle these different funds. So, just because we have money in one area, it does not mean it can be used for anything else. In most cases, every dollar has a specific purpose and needs to stay in the funding stream it currently applies. And the reason I can stand here and tell you that we are doing very well financially, yet also tell you that we need to be cautious with our spending, is because while most of our funds are in great shape, a few others continue to be a challenge.

Let’s take a closer look at the general fund. Our General Fund is a combination of our income tax collections, the state’s local government funds, interest income, grants, fines, fees, etc. This is the fund we pay our police and fire out of, which means state cuts have a direct impact on the number of police and firefighters we can afford. 

The largest portion of the general fund comes from income tax collections. In 2010 during the depth of the recession, the unemployment rate had peaked at 15% and income tax collections dropped to $28.7 million. In 2014 the unemployment rate dropped to a 30-year low of 5.1% and our income tax collections rose to a record level of $34.8 million. That was a $6.1 million annual increase. The City of Canton’s local economy has recovered.

However, while we were recovering from the recession locally by retaining companies, bringing in new businesses, and growing our local economy, our state legislators and governor balanced their books on the backs of local communities throughout the state. As Council President Allen Schulman and I have indicated countless times, the state has slashed local government funds, repealed the inheritance tax and made numerous other cuts that have cost the City of Canton $6.1 million annually. That’s the exact same amount that we lost during the great recession.

What this means is that the local government policies by our State Legislators and Governor have had the exact same impact on the City of Canton as the greatest recession in our history. To top it off, the State of Ohio is sitting on a $2 billion reserve and they refuse to restore their support for local communities.

Another important source of available revenue for our General Fund is the amount of money not used from the prior year, called our carryover. Our General Fund carryover has continuously improved each year since 2009, meaning we have spent less than we have taken in each of those years. However, in response to the concerns of our constituents, and in collaboration with City Council, we chose to beef-up our safety forces this past year. If you remember last year, we hired 35 new police officers and firefighters. And this year we are planning on hiring additional safety forces. Therefore, for the first time in five years our carryover in the general fund was less than the prior year.

General Fund spending is determined by the prior year’s carryover, added to income tax and property tax collections, local government funding and non-tax revenues. In spite of the growth of our local economy, our 2015 general fund budget is still less than our pre-recession high in 2008. In effect, the cuts from our state government have wiped out seven years of our local recovery and growth.

As I mentioned, the City’s 2014 budget was $254 million and the general fund accounts for about 22% of that. The biggest portion of the overall budget comes from our three largest enterprise funds; Water, Sewer and Sanitation, which account for over $96 million or 38% of the city’s total spending.

During the past several years, we have been aggressively investing in the repair and maintenance of our plants as well as the replacement of equipment in our Water, Sewer, and Sanitation Departments. In fact, over the past seven years, we have spent nearly $50 million improving our operations in these departments with plans to spend about $90 million more over the next couple years to provide the highest quality services to our citizens.

One example of our success is the Sanitation Department. This department was on the verge of collapse when I took office.  But today, we are able to provide a quality service at a competitive price for our citizens. In fact, we are so efficient; we are able to compete with the private sector outside our city limits.  Can you imagine?  A public service that can compete with the private sector and actually win. And that is exactly what we are doing.

In addition to investing $140 million in these public utilities, we have also been building up the reserves in each of their respective accounts.  Collectively, the cash balances have nearly tripled over the past seven years which has helped strengthen our overall financial outlook.

Another key indicator to look at when determining the city’s financial outlook is the amount of debt held, and the city’s ability to pay off that debt. While we have been reinvesting in our infrastructure, we also have continued to pay down our debt. Since 2006, the city’s overall debt has decreased by nearly $14 million through 2013.

Because of the strength of our financial outlook we are in a great position to take out bonds, and we are able to obtain this financing at interest rates as low as 1%. This year, in collaboration with City Council, local developers, the Canton Chamber of Commerce, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, we are in the process of funding almost $15 million in projects.

I continue to set my priorities based on the four pillars of what makes a strong city; Safety, Education, Neighborhoods, and the Economy. The strength of our finances allows us to aggressively address the needs in each of these four areas.

The first pillar I’m going to discuss today, and many believe the most important, of the four pillars is Safety. In spite of all the challenges we have faced over the past seven years, our Police and Fire Departments have been doing an outstanding job. We have the most professional, skilled, trained, and diverse police and fire departments in the region. The citizens of Canton are fortunate to have these local heroes that put their lives on the line for us every day.

Our fire department, under the leadership of Chief Stephen Rich had an extremely busy year in 2014, responding to over 15,000 calls. Of those calls, there were only 214 structural fires, most of the rest of the calls were for EMS services. Because of our aging population, the number of EMS calls continues to increase. Today, putting out fires is only a small part of what they do.

Our firefighters are trained to the highest level, both as firefighters and medics. In addition to fire and medical training, our firefighters have also been prepared for numerous types of disasters, including environmental issues, water rescue, building collapses, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and just about anything else you can imagine. This training is critical, because we never know when disaster will strike.

Chief Bruce Lawver and our entire police department have gone above and beyond our expectations. This department is performing at the highest level our city has ever seen, and they are getting results!

By implementing community and intelligence led policing strategies, we have been able to reduce the overall crime in Canton by nearly 25% since I have taken office.

Let me give you some examples of how we have been able to make this happen.

As part of our Community Policing initiatives, officers are assigned to attend neighborhood association meetings on a regular basis to interact with the needs of our most active citizens. In addition, our Police Chief and Safety Director have been holding Public Safety Education meetings throughout our city and will continue to do so. Another example of community policing is the assignment of walking beat officers in our downtown, making our downtown one of the safest areas in our city.

We have also been using Intelligence Led Policing Strategies.  One way that we have used technology to improve the Police Department’s transparency and communication with the public is through the introduction of the body cameras. We started this process nearly two years ago, and as of last week, this program has gone live.

Two years ago, we introduced Shotspotter into our community. Shotspotter is a system that allows us to accurately pinpoint the number of gunshots fired in targeted areas. Since its implementation, our police department has been able to reduce gunshots in those targeted areas by 44%. This is another example of how we have used technology to enhance our policing strategies to make Canton safer. 

The Shorb Summit Neighborhood has historically been one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in our city. Administrations have tried everything in the past including a substation, task force, bicycle patrols, etc. Yet we have never been able to make a sustainable difference, until now.

Combining community policing, intelligence led policing, and input from our citizens, our strategy has evolved into Highly Sophisticated Community Policing. Using this strategy, we have reduced crime by over 50% in that neighborhood and have been able to maintain these lower numbers. I am talking about violent crimes and quality of life crimes such as burglaries, thefts, trespassing and property crimes that have the greatest impact on the lives our citizens. We are now targeting other neighborhoods with this customized strategy, and expect similar results.

However, the biggest challenge in keeping our community safe continues to be the ability to hire and pay for safety forces.  As I mentioned earlier, we are down $6.1 million annually because of the actions of our governor and state legislature.  Our ability to hire police and fire is directly related to their actions. However, I am personally committed to making our community safer. As our economy is recovering, we are diverting every available dollar to restore the ranks in our Police and Fire Departments as our first priority.

Last year at this time, I swore in a class of 35 new members to our safety forces, which was one of the largest and most diverse hiring classes in our history.

This year’s budget will allow us to hire 25 more safety forces, bringing the manpower in our police and fire departments to the highest levels the beginning of the recession.

In the early 2000’s there were a number of issues that inspired me to run for office, nothing more alarming than when I heard the graduation rate for Canton City Schools was just over 50%.  I knew that our City was in trouble, but I did not realize how bad Canton was struggling until I heard that statistic. Nothing will define a city more than the quality of the school system that services that community. That’s why I believe that a quality education system is one of the four pillars needed to build a strong city.

Since that time, Canton City Schools has taken bold and necessary steps to increase their performance and have been making major strides in moving the district forward. Most recently, Superintendent Adrian Allison, has implemented a three phase plan with the goal of creating a brighter tomorrow for our students. His goals were to promote continuous improvement, adapt to the needs of the students, and to personalize learning based on student’s strengths.

While we are still in the early stages of this plan, it appears to be working. Today, the graduation rates at McKinley and Timken High Schools are over 80%, which is a huge improvement. And with more changes on the horizon, I am confident that they will reach even higher. 

The majority of our children attend either Canton City or Plain Local Schools, and collectively they are graduating nearly 90% of our children, which is well above the State’s average and one of the highest graduation rates of all the larger cities in Ohio. 

It is not enough to just help our students graduate from high school, we also need to create an opportunity for them to move on to college.

Five years ago, I introduced the Mayor’s Scholarship Program by partnering with a handful of local colleges and universities, including Malone University, University of Mount Union, Walsh University, Kent State University at Stark and Pepperdine University.

Today we have 14 colleges and universities that are now guaranteeing scholarship money for every child in our city, including the University of Akron, Stark State College, Bowling Green State University, Miami of Ohio, Brown Mackie, National College and Ohio Technical College.

Our newest partners to the Scholarship Program are Youngstown State University and Texas Southern University, and the program is now known as the City of Canton Scholarship Program. To give an example of how this works, Texas Southern University costs $18,000 a year for an out of state student. Because of their partnership with the City of Canton, they are guaranteeing $11,000 per year for every qualified student. And if you are Pell eligible, as most of our students are, you can attend Texas Southern nearly tuition free.

We started this program in 2009 and one of our first participants was Chelsea Perry, a graduate of Canton McKinley. She received scholarship funds for four years while attending Malone University.  Ms. Perry graduated last year with a bachelor’s degree, and was actually hired by the City of Canton. Today one of her responsibilities is to manage the City of Canton Scholarship Program and to help other students achieve their academic goals. Please join me in welcoming and congratulating Chelsea Perry.

Another one of our partners is Stark State College. They are not only a partner for the City of Canton Scholarship Program, but they have also invested over $10 million in a brand new downtown campus. In partnership with the Oil and Gas Industry, Stark State provides a wide range of specialized training for students interested in obtaining jobs in this industry. There are currently 400 students attending this campus, with the goals for Stark State to eventually serve over 10,000 students downtown in the near future.

Having healthy, attractive neighborhoods is the third pillar of a strong city. Canton has a wide variety of neighborhoods where some are thriving while others are struggling, and everything in between. 

But the one thing our neighborhoods have in common is a core of residents who care about their homes and take pride in their neighborhoods.  That’s why we have so many neighborhood associations and why we have hundreds of our citizens who are involved in those associations around our city. 

These citizens and everyone associated with these neighborhood groups are the real inspiration of our city.  This is what it is all about… our people, the families who live in our community.  Thank you for what you do every day to make Canton a better place to call home.  It is because of you that the rest of us have hope that Canton’s future is bright.

To turn that hope in to reality, the single most important thing that I can do for you as Mayor of the City of Canton is to provide you with a comprehensive plan that will be our blueprint for improving every corner of our city for years to come. This comprehensive plan is your plan. It is being created by all of you; by the input of our business leaders, our education leaders, our religious leaders, our community service leaders, our political leaders, our seniors, our youth and anyone else that was interested enough to attend the numerous meeting throughout our city over the past year.   The Comprehensive Plan will be completed in a few months and will help set our priorities and vision to move Canton forward for years to come.

Since I have taken office, we have invested over $20 million addressing our neighborhood’s community and housing needs.  Just this year, we have partnered with the Ex-Newsboys, the YMCA, and The First Tee for programs supporting our youth. We have partnered with Hammer & Nails, Habitat for Humanity, and Rebuilding Together to support the housing needs for our seniors and veterans. We have also invested in programs that address the mental health and homeless issues having a direct impact on the neediest among us. I am very proud of the work done through our community development department addressing the needs of the entire community.

We have had the most aggressive housing demolition program in Canton’s history. In the past seven years, we have torn down over 1,000 blighted structures. And we have recently received funding that will allow us to tear down another 250 properties over the next two years. In addition to removing the blight, we have also spent $21 million repairing and replacing over 80 miles of roads and bridges throughout the city.

In fact, we have invested over $325 million in infrastructure.  We have repaired, replaced and upgraded our roads and bridges, demolitions, storm sewers, engineering, parks and recreation, paving, streetscapes, government buildings, and the repair, maintenance, and construction of our water plants and treatment plants.

One example is the upgrades we have made to our fresh water plants. The water department currently operates three plants. Over the past few years we have rebuilt and refurbished all three, but shutting one down and running the city on the remaining two while we rebuilt from the ground up. We initiated a leak detection program that has allowed us to stop the outflow of nearly 5 million gallons of water a day. And as you know, we are in the process of replacing water meters in your homes. All of these upgrades have allowed us to have an abundant water supply at one of the lowest costs anywhere.

Another example is the upgrade being made to our waste water treatment facility, which is the single largest investment in our city’s history. Upon the completion of this project, in about two years, we will have the largest, cleanest, greenest waste water treatment facility in the entire world at one of the lowest costs.

Having the excess capacity to provide fresh water and waste water treatment at one of the lowest costs available will make our city attractive to manufacturers who need these types of services.

And that leads me to the fourth pillar of a strong community: economic development.

Our economic development efforts consist of retention and expansion of existing companies such as Freshmark, Stolle Machinery, Case Farms, and Hydrodec.

The attraction of new companies such as I2R Power Cable Company, Corporex Capital, and EHDOC, Stark State Energy Campus, and numerous companies associated with the Oil and Gas Industry. 

We have also been aggressively going after international companies and direct foreign investment and we are seeing the results of our efforts with new companies such as AmbaFlex, Kubota, and Ecovacs.

Our ability to work with strategic partners such as the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Stark County Oil and Gas Partnership, the Local Building Trades, Stark Development Board, and other government officials has contributed to our success in reaching this historically low unemployment rate.

A strong city must have a strong and vibrant downtown.  We are proud that VXI who came to our city three years ago has become one of our top employers in the city.  We are excited that both the YMCA and United Way are once again located in downtown Canton.  We are blessed with individuals like Rob Hankins who had the vision to create our downtown Arts District and bring us First Fridays.  And I would like to especially thank my good friend, Steve Coon for continuing to believe in Canton.  With the support of our city council, the Historic Onesto Project has become a reality.  And if you were planning to move into the Onesto, it may be too late!

The unemployment rate is one of the most accurate indicators as to the strength of any economy. Just five years ago, the City of Canton’s unemployment rate peaked at 15% during the Great Recession.  And I’m proud to stand before you today and tell you that our unemployment rate has dropped to a 30-year low of 5.1%. 

And of course, one of the most exciting developments in our history is happening right here, right now!  The development of the Hall of Fame Village.

About two years ago, we started working with the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton City Schools, the Canton Chamber, and City Council among others on a plan to renovate Fawcett Stadium.  And then, David Baker came to town as the new Director here at the Hall of Fame.  One of his first meetings was with Stu Lichter, possibly the largest developer here in Ohio.  David Baker’s first question was “why wasn’t there a Hotel here” and Stu was offering to build one.

One meeting led to another, and now the project has grown to the extent that no one could have imagined. Realizing the magnitude of the opportunity in front of us, this Administration, in collaboration with City Council, made a commitment to put the first five million dollars into this project. By leveraging this investment, this project is bringing hundreds of millions of dollars of outside capital into our city. The best part is that everyone is committed to ensuring that the work will be done by local workers.

While we eagerly await the release of the feasibility study, we know one thing for sure: big dreams create bigger realities. At this time, I would like to invite the biggest man to the front, Dave Baker.

Also, I would like to invite members of City Council up here to join me. In addition, I would ask that some of our key partners also join us: Dennis Saunier representing the Canton Chamber of Commerce and Dave Kirven representing Builders Trades.

On behalf of the city of Canton, we would like to present you with this check for $5 Million.  With this investment and the start of this project, Canton has changed forever.  

What we now call the Hall of Fame Village is more than bricks and mortar. It’s a game changer for the City of Canton. This project will serve as an economic engine for the entire region for years to come. Let’s take a sneak peak at this amazing project.

Thank you, David, for bringing your Big Dreams to Canton, Ohio.

Could You Have Imagined? 

As I referenced earlier, when I first returned to Canton, we were struggling.  Think back to the condition of our city 10 to 12 years ago.  At that time, Could you have imagined: First Fridays events that attract thousands of visitors not just from Canton or neighboring cities, but from neighboring states…or that we would be home to Gervasi, the finest winery in the nation?

Could you have imagined that we would have a downtown college campus,or that people would be living in the downtown Onesto Hotel …?

Could you have imagined that Oil and Gaswould be a major industry in our community ....or that we would have a microbrewery downtown…?

Could you have imagined that we would have the largest, cleanest, greenest waste water treatment facility in the entire world… that crime would drop by 25%...?

Could you have imagined that we would begraduating 90% of our students…and offering a scholarship to every one of them …?

Could you have imagined that our finances would be stronger AFTER the great recession than they were before, or that the unemployment rate would reach a 30 year low…?

And who would have dreamt that we would be here today talking about the Hall of Fame Village, a project that will change Canton forever?

Great things ARE happening in Canton! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Thank you.

Connect with Mayor Healy on Facebook

Click on the link below to connect with Mayor Healy’s Official Re-Election Facebook Page!

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Re-Elect-William-J-Healy-II-for-Mayor-of-Canton-Ohio/960332130644336?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

  

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Mayor Healy's 2015 State of the City Address

 

On March 18, 2015, Mayor Healy delivered his annual State of the City address to a packed house at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Mayor Healy outlined the progress that has been made during his time in office, his plans to continue moving Canton forward, and some exciting projects on the city's horizon, most notably the city's Comprehensive Plan and the Hall of Fame Village Project.  Below are pictures from the event.  Be sure to check back soon for text and video of the speech.



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Mayor Healy in Attendance at Canton Charge Game

On March 14, 2015, Mayor Healy was in attendance at the Canton Memorial Civic Center as the Canton Charge beat the Sioux Falls Skyforce 98-91.  Mayor Healy met with Charge leaders, players, mascots, and fans.  He was even able to present one special Charge fan with a Mayoral Proclamation as she celebrated her 85th birthday!

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Pig Roast - Fundraiser Event

Please join Canton Mayor, William J. Healy II at his 5th annual Pig Roast fundraiser.

When: Thursday, July 10, 2014 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm
Where: 
Canton VFW Post 3747, 1935 Avalon Ave. NE, Canton, Ohio 44705

Suggested Contributions:
Event Sponsor - $2,500
BBQ/Pig Sponsor - $1,000
Refreshment Sponsor - $500
Salad Sponsor- $250

Guests - $25 per person


Please make (non-corporate) checks out to:
Team Healy Committee, 501 52nd Street NW, Canton, Ohio 44709  -  Tom Ascani, Chairman



For more information or to make reservations, please contact Mary at 330-497-8307 or by email at: healy_mary@sbcglobal.net

To make Contribution on line, click on the "Contribute" tab on the upper right hand of this page, or click on this link: https://secure.blueutopia.com/teamhealy/contribute/ and follow the instructions.



Mayor Healy 2014 State of the City


city of canton state of the cityGood evening and welcome to the Canton Civic Center for the 2014 State of the City address. I would first like to recognize and thank the sponsor of this event—The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce represented by Denny Saunier. Thank you for your continued sponsorship of the State of the City.

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I would also like to thank city council for all their hard work and recognize those members in attendance as well as the other city elected officials joining us today.

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Most importantly, I would like to thank you, the residents of Canton for your continued support and confidence in our administration over these past six years. Running the 8th largest city in Ohio is not easy, but with dedicated hardworking employees, a very talented group of department heads, and our large population of community minded individuals, we are moving Canton forward.

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Now it is time for us to raise the bar. We want to create a Standard of Excellence to provide the absolute best services in everything we do. Today, I challenge every employee in every department to not only excel, but to raise the bar beyond current best practices and set new standards. If we really want to claim ourselves as the Hall of Fame City then we should be performing everything we do at Hall of Fame levels.

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So how do we get our city to Hall of Fame performing levels? The answer is the same way any business with a goal of creating a world class organization would. We start with management. We must build a leadership team of the most qualified, experienced, progressive professionals and give them the resources they need to create a Standard of Excellence. And that is exactly what we have been doing.

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As Mayor, I directly or indirectly oversee 22 of the city’s 32 different departments, not counting those under specific boards or commissions, or other elected officials like the Auditor, Treasurer, Law Director, Judges, or Council. And since I have been Mayor, I have made it a priority to find the most qualified, experienced, professionals I can, to lead every one of those 22 departments. And today, I am proud to say that we have the most talented management team the city has ever experienced. And it is because of the efforts of these individuals we are reaching best practice levels in some departments and have already reached a Standard of Excellence in others.

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I would like to first take a moment to recognize and thank my cabinet and staff for their personal and professional dedication to the City of Canton. It all starts here, and this is the strongest team I have had since I have taken office. Thank you for providing a standard of excellence in leadership for the entire city of Canton!

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I am also very proud to introduce to you the rest of our management team. These are the department heads and appointees in key positions that do not fall under another elected official, starting with our leaders in public safety.

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Next we have our leaders overseeing those departments of Public Service.

city of canton state of the city

Then we have those leaders that handle our Internal Services.

city of canton state of the city

And of course, those leaders who take care of our community and economic development services for the city of Canton. These 31 individuals have 60 college degrees, professional certificates or licenses and 14 of them have a master’s degree or higher! This group also has a combined 180 years of management experience and 350 years collectively with the city.

city of canton state of the city

In addition to this group, there are other key people serving under other elected officials as well as those we are positioning as our future leaders that I have not mentioned who fit into this category as well. Thank you all for what you do every day for our citizens, and please thank everyone in your respective departments who deserve to be recognized as well.

city of canton state of the city

In addition to a strong management team, the next thing we must have to become a Hall of Fame performing city is financial strength. Like any business, you are only as healthy as your overall finances, and the city is no different. I’m happy to share with you today that the city of Canton is currently experiencing its strongest financial position in over a decade. Let me repeat that, the city of Canton is experiencing our strongest financial position we have seen in over a decade!

city of canton state of the city

Now please don’t mistake this for us rolling in cash or having the ability to spend at will, because that is certainly not the case. However, when you look at our entire financial picture, we have collected the highest income tax revenue in our history, we have been able to reduce our overall debt while investing in our infrastructure, and we were able to strengthen the reserves in our general and enterprise funds.

city of canton state of the city

There are still some areas of concern, as our general fund cash flow is significantly lower than it was before the recession. However thanks to our strong team of leaders and disciplined spending, overall operations are more efficient and effective than ever. The city now has a much stronger and more stable financial outlook.

city of canton state of the city

Let’s take a closer look at our finances that will show you the overall strength of our current financial situation, but also show you a few areas of concern.

city of canton state of the city

The City of Canton’s total annual operations this year are currently $206 million with 32 Departments and over 900 full time employees. However, city finances are not quite so simple.

city of canton state of the city

We have a number of separate funds that make up this $206 million budget, including enterprise funds, grant funds, capital funds, and of course the General Fund, which is what we spend so much time talking about. The one thing you need to know is that as a rule, you cannot comingle these different funds. So, just because we have money in one area, it does not mean it can be used for anything else. In most cases, every dollar has a specific purpose and needs to stay in the funding stream it currently applies to. And the reason I can stand here and tell you that we are doing very well financially, yet also tell you that we need to be cautious with our spending, is because while most of our funds are in very good shape, a few others are not quite as strong, like our General Fund.

city of canton state of the city

Our General Fund is a combination of our income tax collections, the state’s local government funds, interest income, grants, fines, fees, etc. This is the fund we pay our police and fire out of, which means state cuts have had a direct impact on the number of police and firefighters we can afford.

city of canton state of the city

Income tax collected is the largest source of revenue to the General Fund and represents where about 65% of our General Fund dollars come from. The most we have ever collected in income taxes was in 2007, just before the recession started. We bottomed out in 2010 during the recession and since then, we have been steadily recovering. In fact this past year, we had the highest level of income taxes we have ever collected! Our local economy has recovered and we are getting stronger every day.

city of canton state of the city

Our projections for 2014 are anticipated to be similar to 2013. In addition, our new City Treasurer, Kim Perez and his team are taking an aggressive approach to collecting back taxes and new investment strategies. Because of their efforts we anticipate a modest increase in our income tax collections in 2014.

city of canton state of the city

The second largest source of income to our General Fund has always come from the state, supporting local governments. However, our state funding has been reduced from nearly $11 million in 2008 to under $5 million in 2014. Think about that for a minute. That’s over $6 million! $6 million that we won’t see every year, year after year! The losses from these state cuts have had a huge negative impact on our operations. Although our General Fund is stable now, imagine where we’d be if we had an extra $6 million a year for our operations.

city of canton state of the city

Another important source of available revenue for our General Fund is the amount of money not used from the prior year, called our carryover. Being fiscally responsible, we have been able to live within our means while steadily improving our cash flow. Our General Fund carryover has continuously improved each year since 2009, meaning we have spent less than we have taken in each of those years. And these carryovers are extremely important because they roll over to the following year to be used as needed.

city of canton state of the city

Now when you add the carryover to all those other items in our General Fund, like our income tax collections, local government fund dollars and others, our General Fund budget has shown significant improvement since it bottomed out in 2012. However, because of state cuts to local governments, our 2013 General Fund revenues are still about $5.5 million below our pre-recession high from 2008.

city of canton state of the city

As I mentioned, the City’s overall budget is $206 million and the general fund accounts for less than 30% of that. The next biggest portion of the overall budget comes from our three largest enterprise funds; Water, Sewer and Sanitation which accounts for over $37 million.

city of canton state of the city

During the past several years, we have been aggressively investing in the repair and maintenance of our plants as well as the replacement of equipment in our Water, Sewer, and Sanitation Departments. In fact, over the past six years, we have spent nearly $50 million reinvesting in these departments with plans to spend over $100 million more over the next few years to create a standard of excellence second to none, in providing these infrastructure needs to our citizens.

city of canton state of the city

Not only have we made a commitment to reinvest in our public utilities, we also have managed to strengthen our reserves in each of their respective enterprise funds. This has all been possible because of those talented leaders that I mentioned earlier; Tracy Mills, Tyler Converse, Jimmy DiMarzio and Mark Adams, along with our engineer Dan Moeglin and their respective teams. The state of Canton’s public utility reserves are just one more indicator that the city’s finances
are stronger than they have been in over a decade.

city of canton state of the city

Another key indicator to look at when determining the city’s financial outlook is the amount of debt held, and the city’s ability to pay off that debt. At the same time that we have been reinvesting in our infrastructure, growing our revenues, building up our carryovers, stabilizing our general fund operations, and strengthening our enterprise funds, we have also been paying down our debt. Since 2006, the city’s overall debt has decreased by 13%, or nearly $8 million.

So what does all of this mean? It means that we not only have been good stewards of our tax payer’s dollars during some of the most difficult times, but we have also raised the bar and positioned our city for a brighter future. We are financially strong and getting stronger every day.

Because our financial outlook is much stronger than it has been in years, we feel confident that the city is poised for an increase in our Bond Rating. This will allow us to borrow money for future projects at lower interest rates. Working closely with the City Auditor, R.A. Mallonn and his Chief Deputy, Gary Young, we will be inviting representatives from Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s to meet with us in the near future to reevaluate our bond rating.

Now that we have reviewed our internal operations, let’s take a look beyond the walls of City Hall. I continue to set my priorities based on the four pillars of what makes a strong city; Economy, Education, Community, and Safety. Let’s start with the economy.

As I mentioned above, our income tax collections are at an all-time high and that means people are working. A key performance indicator of a strong economy is a steady decline in unemployment and that’s exactly what has been happening here in Canton.

We peaked out at nearly 15% unemployment during the recession, but since then, we continue to put more and more Canton citizens back to work and our declining unemployment rate reflects that. In addition, there is typically a large gap between the city’s and the state’s unemployment rates, however, we are closing that gap too. This comparison shows that Canton’s economy has been improving at a much faster rate than the rest of the state.

One reason for our success locally is because several of our core companies such as the Timken Company, Marathon Oil, Aultman, Mercy Hospital, Malone University, Gervasi Vineyards, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame just to name a few, have invested over $1 billion over the past few years with expansions and upgrades here in Canton.

In addition, the Akron-Canton Airport, Stark State College, the Timken Company, Chesapeake, Baker Hughes, and many others have committed hundreds of millions more dollars locating and expanding in the Canton region. This creates both construction and full time positions available to Canton citizens and all Stark County residents. And what happens around Stark County, matters to Canton. When the Hoover Company closed in North Canton several years ago, for example, hundreds of Canton residents lost their jobs. When our region does well, we all win.

And this is why it’s so important that we work closely with our neighbors, because we are all in this together. Our partnership with Jackson Township has allowed us to work together promoting economic opportunities for both communities. And this partnership is serving as a model to emulate with Plain Township and others to work together for the good of the whole community.

And of course, I cannot talk about economic development without mentioning the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce. Our partnership has been invaluable and I want to personally thank Denny Saunier and his entire team for all that they do for our city.

One example of how important our relationship has been is the development of the Mills Industrial Park along with developer, Bob DeHoff. We have recently attracted another business to this park located off Faircrest and Rt. 77. I²R Power is the newest company to move into this industrial park and we are excited to have them here in Canton. Combined with Medline, GE Capital, and Old Dominion Freight Line, who all have moved into this industrial park within the past few years, we are now up to 170 new jobs in our city that would not be here today without the Chamber’s efforts.

In addition to the Chamber of Commerce, we are also working closely with Team NEO, which is our economic development organization that represents Jobs Ohio. When it comes to creating jobs, you can never have too many partners. One area we have worked well with Team NEO is with foreign investors. We have had several leads for new business opportunities, and our latest international success due to this relationship is with a company called Ambaflex Inc. They have recently purchased a building on Raff Road and have brought with them 25 more jobs. I believe that one of the best opportunities for creating new jobs here in Canton is to seek out those international companies looking to do business in the US. We will be focusing more and more on attracting foreign investment to help our community grow.

And speaking of working with Team NEO, they were the ones who gave us the lead for VXI Global Solutions a few years ago. VXI has been in downtown Canton for about two and a half years and they are already one of the city’s top ten employers with roughly 1,000 employees. That is exciting in itself, but even more exciting is the fact that they have recently announced that they will be hiring an additional 650 workers by the end of spring! With those additional hires, VXI Global Solutions willbecome one of the city’s top five employers! This is fantastic news, and we are thrilled to have them here in Canton. So, if you know anyone looking for a job, I’d start at VXI.

The Repository recently reported that Utica Shale drilling has fostered more than $18 billion in economic impact for our region. Canton has directly benefitted from engineering firms, law firms, hotels, and other oilfield service companies bringing even more jobs to our city. And this is still just the beginning. We expect to see this industry to continue to grow every year for many years to come.

In addition to the oil and gas industry, we have several other exciting projects developing that will bring new companies and new jobs to Canton, and I look forward to sharing those with you throughout the year.

The importance of a strong education system is the second of the four pillars that are needed to build the foundation of a strong city. As we shift into a more globalized and interconnected world, we must make sure our children have every opportunity to succeed. Having just a high school diploma is not enough anymore in order to compete in a global market. But graduating from high school is the first step.

Graduation rates are a good indicator as to how well our schools are performing. They also are one of the most important factors in where people want to live and raise their families. The overwhelming majority of our children attend either Canton City or Plain Local Schools. Collectively, they are graduating about 86% of our children, which is well above the State’s average. And Canton City Schools have been consistently graduating a higher percentage of their students compared to any of the other “Big 8” school districts. This is a big improvement from the past, but the future is even brighter.

Superintendent Adrian Allison and his administration have stepped up to the challenge and are in the process of completely transforming Canton City Schools. The Brighter Tomorrow Plan began last year with a goal of customizing the educational experience and creating a greater opportunity for every child to succeed. At this time I would like to thank Superintendent Allison and the entire Canton City School Board for establishing a standard of excellence.

It is not enough to just help our kids graduate from high school. That is why I continue to promote the Mayor’s Scholarship Program. Our office has partnered with several colleges and universities that guarantee funds to Canton students. Every child who lives in Canton and attends one of our public schools is eligible for this program. As long as they stay in school, do their best, and graduate, I want every single child to know that there are resources available to help them go to college.

And of course, one of the most exciting things going on in downtown Canton is the addition of Stark State’s newest campus focusing on the oil and gas industry. Stark State anticipates servicing thousands of students at this new downtown campus and classes are expected to begin this year.

Having healthy, attractive neighborhoods is the third pillar of a strong city. Canton has many beautiful neighborhoods, but we also have our share of blighted and stressed properties as well. The appearance of our housing stock is only part of the equation. There are many other variables that help create quality neighborhoods.

But in every case, it’s the involvement of the people that makes a neighborhood great. And I would like to take this moment to thank every citizen who is actively participating within their local neighborhood organization. Your involvement matters and is making a real difference. Thank You.

The City of Canton has been committed to eliminating blight while also investing in our infrastructure. Since I took office, we have had the most aggressive housing demolition program in Canton’s history. In the past six years, we have torn down over 1,000 blighted structures throughout the city, and we just received funding, thanks to the efforts of Bethany Chamberlin and Lisa Miller, that will allow us to tear down another 250 properties over the next two years.

In addition to removing the blight, we have spent $21 million repairing and replacing over 80 miles of roads and bridges throughout the city.
Creating quality neighborhoods means more than roads and bridges; it also means that we have working sewer systems, waste water treatment, and fresh water available at affordable prices.

And this is where strong leadership has really made a difference. Our public works team, led by Jimmy DiMarzio, Tyler Converse, Tracy Mills, and Dan Moeglin, together have consistently raised the bar, creating a standard of excellence by reducing neighborhood flooding, modernizing our water and sewer systems, and creating the largest, cleanest, greenest waste water treatment facility in the entire world!

Another one of those leaders that I was referring earlier is Derek Gordon, our Parks Director. With Derek leading the way, our citizens agreed to a levy that will invest in our parks while spearheading the eventual merger of our Parks and Recreation Departments. I would like to take a moment to thank the Canton residents for investing in Canton’s future. I’m sure that we will see many wonderful improvements to our parks and recreation services in the near future.

And one of the most important things we are working on is the creation of our citywide comprehensive plan. Just yesterday, we delivered a communication to council that will allow us to enter into a contract with CZB, LLC to develop our Citywide Comprehensive Plan. This process will take some time, but by this time next year, we will have a formal document that will serve as our guide into the future.

The last pillar I’m going to discuss today, and perhaps the most important of the four pillars is Safety. In spite of all the challenges we have faced over the past six years, our Police and Fire Departments have been doing a spectacular job. The citizens of Canton are fortunate to have the most professional, skilled, and trained police and fire departments anywhere. If you have had the need to call them, or if you ever had an opportunity to ride along like I have, to witness firsthand how talented they really are, you would understand why I can make this claim.
Let me start by taking a closer look at our fire department.

Our fire department had an extremely busy year in 2013, responding to roughly 12,000 calls. Of those calls, less than 250 were for structural fires, the rest of the calls were for EMS services. Because of our aging population, the number of EMS calls has increased significantly nearly every year. Our firefighters are busier than ever, but putting out fires is only a small part of what they do.

In the past, everyone in this department was a trained firefighter, with a small portion of them also trained as medics. Today, if you want to serve on the Canton City Fire Department, you must be both a firefighter and a medic. By raising the bar, Canton now has the most educated and trained firefighters we have ever had.

In addition to fire and medical training, our firefighters have also been prepared for numerous types of disasters, including environmental issues, water rescue, building collapses, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and just about anything else you can imagine. Our Firefighters are already performing at a Standard of Excellence worthy of Hall of Fame recognition.

Under the leadership of Chief Bruce Lawver, we have seen a standard of excellence in our Police Department that has not been present in decades, if ever. This department is performing at the highest levels our city has ever seen, and they are getting results!

Crime in the city has been on the decline. Intelligence Led Policing strategies have driven our crime levels well below where they were seven years ago, when they were at an all time high. Except for a slight increase through portions of 2011 and 2012 when a large portion of the county jail was closed, we have seen a continuous reduction in crime across our city since 2007.

When you look back over the past ten years at the actual crime statistics, the same ones that are reported to the FBI annually, you can easily see that Canton is a much safer city today then we were in the mid-2000s. I will be the first to tell you that 6,800 incidents is still way too high and we are committed to doing everything within our power to continue to make Canton a safer community.

The biggest change to our policing strategies today compared to seven years ago was the implementation of Intelligence Led Policing, which is the use of modern technology and statistical analysis to enhance our policing strategies. This system allows us to be much more efficient and effective. A few examples of making better use of technology was the implementation of the Shotspotter system and Tip411, as well as using the web site for posting our most wanted criminals.

In a collaborative effort between the US Marshal’s Service, the Stark County Sheriff’s Office, the Canton Police Department, and the Adult Parole Authority, the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force has been instrumental in apprehending more than 100 violent fugitives in our area.

We are in the process of bringing back the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence program in a partnership with the Stark County Prosecutor, John Fererro. They have hired Reverend Walter Moss to head up this program that targets gang members, gang activities, and violent crime. We brought this program to Canton with grant money back in 2009, but had to dissolve it because of a lack of funds when the grant ran out a couple years later. We expect that this program will have a big impact on gang and gun related crimes throughout our city.

Our police and fire departments do a great job. As you all know, sophisticated programs and modern technology are all good, but what we really need are more boots on the ground!

Today I have just sworn in 35 of the newest members to our safety forces, that is 18 new police officers and 17 new firefighters! This will increase the total number of police officers from 147 up to 165 and will increase the number of firefighters up from 138 to 155!

Not only is this the largest class of new hires we can find on record, it also is the most diverse class we have hired in 25 years. I am also proud to say this class includes ten veterans.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to the newest members of your safety forces!

Congratulations to all the new members to our safety forces, and thank you to everyone else for attending my State of the City address.

 
 


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