I have recently had a few residents ask me about tax cuts and City finances, so I thought I would take a moment to provide some insight into what has shaped up to be another fantastic year for the Fort Wright community, thanks to our residents, businesses, City Council, and Staff.
In light of rising inflation that increasingly affects us all, I am incredibly pleased that City Council recently voted to reduce our tax burden to the lowest rate since 2011. Our Real Property Tax Rate was reduced from .265 per thousand to .248 per thousand, a roughly 6.5% cut, while our Personal Property Tax Rate was reduced from .409 per thousand to .380 per thousand, a roughly 7% cut.
Council also reduced a part of our occupational licensing fees for local businesses and took steps to eliminate a long-standing motor vehicle tax levied on your vehicles. These reductions ensure that we will continue to be one of the lowest taxing agencies in Kenton County in 2023.
Despite tax cuts, we have come in under budget each fiscal year for the last five consecutive years. Smart operational and financial decisions coupled with rising property values and growing residential and commercial tax bases has allowed us to build substantial financial reserves, in fact, we could operate for nearly a year with no additional income in the event of a catastrophe. Additionally, we have no long-term debt obligations and maintain a robust Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) designed to ensure that we pay cash for all capital items such as our 5-Year Street Improvement Program.
To make your money work even harder for you, Council has engaged a local firm that specializes in government investments to safely invest a portion of our reserves to yield better returns which allows you to keep more of your money. We also follow interest rates closely and have worked with our bank to get a better rate on our deposits which generates significant revenue and helps to keep our taxes low.
We have also aggressively pursued grant funding to augment our finances, and we have been extremely fortunate to receive more than 4.6 million dollars in grants over the last 10 years! These funds have been used for major infrastructure improvements such as the reconstruction of Amsterdam Road and for improving our emergency service response capabilities with new life saving equipment for our First Responders.
While the money makes it all possible, it is not all about the money. Council and I are laser focused on the safety and security of our residents, businesses, and guests; and to that end continue to invest in our team and our equipment. Due to higher demand for services and a growing community we have added staff in both the Police and Fire Departments and have invested in employee recruitment and retention to ensure that we can hire and keep the very best staff.
We also understand that continued investment in our infrastructure is critical for public safety, ensures that our property values continue to grow and ensures that we remain one of the most desirable communities in Greater Cincinnati. On this front, we spend more than $600,000 annually on streets as part of our rolling 5-Year Street Improvement Plan and we recently completed major renovations to the South Hills Civic Club and Volunteer Park. These investments in infrastructure and staff have played a key role in driving an overall property value increase of nearly 150 million dollars in the last decade - allowing us to reduce the tax burden on our residents and businesses while increasing the services and amenities we can provide.
Others are taking notice, a recent SmartAsset study ranked us #6 in the top ten “best suburbs” in the U.S. based on jobs, affordability, and livability. You can view the study here: https://smartasset.com/data-studies/best-suburbs-to-live-in-near-a-large-city-2022.
Looking towards 2023 and beyond, we are committed to ongoing infrastructure investments such as further park improvements, community enhancing signage and gateway features added to key community access points like branded public benches and trash cans.
We will also continue to sponsor annual cleanup days and paper shredding events, host our Spring and Fall Yard Sales, along with our quarterly community blood drives, Santa's Neighborhood Visit, and our Annual Christmas Tree Recycling Program. We encourage you to stay tuned for more information about these efforts in our e-newsletter, on our website, and on Facebook and Twitter, which we use to provide timely and topical information to keep you informed.
Also, I encourage you to attend or tune in to our upcoming December 7th, 2022, City Council Meeting to hear our annual audit presentation given by independent auditor Chamberlain Owen CPA. Their audit team has been on-site reviewing our finances and our practices and we are eagerly anticipating another excellent audit review and opinion. Sadly, we will also be wishing a very fond farewell to long-time Councilmember Adam Feinauer who is retiring after 22 years to serve as a Deacon at Saint Agnes. As best we can tell, Councilmember Feinauer holds the record for the longest consecutive tenure on City Council and we owe him a sincere debt of gratitude for his many years of dedicated and devoted service to our community. Adam leaves behind huge shoes to fill, and he will be sorely missed by me and our entire team. If you see Adam out in our community, please thank him for his service.
If you miss the meeting, you can review this year’s audit as well as previous audits, budgets, and other important financial information including our Financial Transparency Portal on our website: https://www.fortwright.com/departments/administration/finance.
In closing, I want to thank my colleagues on City Council, none of these successes would be possible without their hard work, wisdom, dedication, and support. It is my privilege to serve beside them, and as resident, I am grateful for their deep and ongoing commitment to making the City of Fort Wright a wonderful place to live, work and play. I also want to thank our Staff for their hard work and dedication, we are truly fortunate to have top-notch professionals serving our community!
Keep an eye out for our relaunched email newsletter, it should appear in your mailbox soon; and if we can be of service to you, please contact our offices at 859.331.1700, visit our website, or email us at [email protected].
Thank you for the privilege to serve as Mayor here in my hometown, may God bless you and the City of Fort Wright. Together we are Neighbors Helping Neighbors.
Mayor Dave Hatter