By Hasan Abdul-Karim, Springfield News-Sun
Officials with the city of Urbana say they will have a better sense of where the city stands financially amid the coronavirus pandemic as tax filings in the coming months will paint a more accurate picture.
“Income tax revenue, specifically withholding taxes, has remained consistent through April,” said Chris Boettcher, the director of finance for Urbana.
“Obviously, the extension of the 2019 tax returns filing date from April 15 to July 15 has delayed collections, so we will have a better picture in late July once individuals and businesses have filed their tax returns.”
It will also allow the city to adjust general revenue projections for the year as the coronavirus pandemic continues. However, there has not been a reported dip in those revenues as of May.
So far, projected revenue for the city’s general fund is $7,039,000 based on pre-pandemic trends.
Budgeted appropriations amount to $7,001,890, Boettcher said.
A large portion of general fund revenue comes from local income tax. The projection for this year so far is $6,489,000 and $3,455,300 is to be directed to the general fund, Boettcher said.
A stay-at-home order was implemented by the governor’s office in March with the hopes of curbing the spread of the coronavirus in Ohio. It called for the closing of nonessential businesses, while others that remained open were asked to tweak their operations following state guidelines.
That included implementing social distancing policies at businesses. Restaurants transitioned to offering strictly carryout, delivery or curbside services. Companies that offer both nonessential and essential services were asked to focus on the latter.
Ohio began gradually reopening portions of its economy in the beginning of May and businesses that had to temporarily shutter their doors have now reopened. Those businesses are required to follow state guidelines related to the pandemic, such as social distancing, increase sanitary practices and in some cases increase personal protection equipment for employees.
Marcia Bailey, with the Champaign Economic Partnership, said that the economic impact affected industries differently in the county.
She noted that while manufacturing as a whole was impacted, a large portion of those businesses were deemed essential and were able to stay open.
But all had to adjust their operations amid the pandemic.
Some saw an increase in the demand for their services, while others had to reduce production. Other businesses, such as family owned and operated restaurants and retail stores either temporarily closed or reduced their operations.
Even though some of those businesses have since reopened, they are still making adjustments, said Bailey.
In terms of restaurants, some have continued to rely on carry out services or have had to reduce the number of people able to dine-in due to social distancing guidelines.
A grant fund has also been established in Champaign County to aid small businesses, with 50 employees or less, impacted by the ongoing pandemic. So far, there has been a total of 24 recipients with a total award of over $54,000, Bailey added.
In addition, Urbana University announced in April that it would close and cease enrollment at the end of the 2020 spring semester. The closure will directly affect 350 students and 111 full-time employees, school officials said at the time.
However, Urbana has not seen a dip in revenues from January to May. Boettcher said general fund revenues reported for this year is approximately $2.7 million and is similar to what was reported during the same period last year.
Urbana Mayor Bill Bean said that at this point they are continuing to monitor the budget and operations have stayed relatively the same.
Contact this reporter at 937- 328-0355 or email Hasan.Abdul-Karim@coxinc.com.
Classes resume Aug. 24; virtual courses still available.
“This is for the students that wish to come back to campus for those services face-to-face,” she said. “They still have the option to receive services virtually, but some will want face-to-face.”
There will be a mixture of in-person and online courses for the nearly 5,700 students that will attend fall semester, Blondin said. She also said that 38% of the courses are online and all courses have an online component.
“We are ready to pivot to a fully online environment should the situation necessitate it,” she said. “Faculty create a virtual “shell” for every course for additional course materials, grading and teamwork/ collaboration for courses.
Because of this preparedness, Clark State can move courses quickly to an online environment if need be.”
When students return to campus, they will be asked to follow a “Return to Campus Daily Checklist” that follows guidelines regarding the “Responsible Restart of Ohio.”
Some of what the college is doing includes shifting staff to be available 24 hours a day to deep clean and sanitize, purchasing new equipment to make sanitization more efficient using hospital-grade tools and cleaning agents, increasing communication, developing new signs, establishing physical distancing requirements and redesigning classrooms.
“We’ve been working hard on the best possible plans for the safest possible environment,” said Matt Franz, vice president of IT and Emergency Management.
“As you move throughout campus, you will see many of the safety and wellness measures that we’ve implemented, such as reconfigured classrooms that accommodate physical distancing, Plexiglas barriers where staff and students come in face-to-face contact, virtual meetings and even stickers on the floor.”
Franz said individuals on campus are also asked to wear masks, frequently wash hands with soap and water, use the hand sanitizer that is outside of the classrooms as people enter and leave, and stay six feet apart of others.
“We want to do everything possible to remove the barriers that prevent students from receiving the education and training they need to enter employment, get promoted or transfer to a university,”
Blondin said. “We are doing everything in our power to mitigate risk while at the same time ensuring that we meet our mission to serve students.”
Contact this reporter at 937-328-0356 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new Cobblestone Hotel & Suites in Urbana officially welcomed its first guests on Friday, June 12th!
Reservations are now available online at https://www.staycobblestone.com/oh/urbana/
Champaign County voters narrowly passed a five-year, 0.5-mill levy in April to build a new senior center on Patrick Avenue near Water Street. The current facility is located at the corner of Thompson and Walnut streets.
Passing with a 3,613-3,512 vote, the levy is expected to generate an estimated $458,000 a year, which Miller said will be used to repay a loan the senior center will acquire from Civista Bank. In 2019, the bank donated 2.2 acres behind its 601 Scioto St. location for a new senior center.
The senior center moved to its current site, a former church, in 1980. The senior center also owns and rents the house just south of the former church. Miller said these properties will be sold.
The new building and parking lot will offer many improvements, Miller and Barnhart said.
“There will be three times as much parking, at least 46 spaces,” Miller said.
The one-story 9,452-squarefoot structure, designed by Beasley Architecture & Design, will include larger pantry and kitchen areas, walk-in freezers, a large activity room, as well as game, meeting and conference rooms that will provide privacy when needed.
Members no longer will need to maneuver stairs and ramp, and carts of groceries no longer will need to be carefully guided up and down the ramp.
Barnhart said she looks forward to more pantry space and room to expand outreach services.
“We are always faced with a lack of space at our current center,” she said.
Both she and Miller said the need for senior center services will increase.
“Our senior population is growing tremendously in the county,” Miller said. “Right now, probably 23% of (the county’s) 40,000 are seniors.”
That includes diversifying as well as adding to available housing stock in the county, fostering more development of new homes and the redevelopment of old ones as well as preexisting buildings that can be converted to apartments and lofts.
One of the tasks of the housing consortium could be to look at existing zoning and rules in the county and what can be done to make them more conducive to current housing needs, said Marcia Bailey, the director of the Champaign Economic Partnership. That includes also focusing on multi-family housing options, instead of just on single family homes.
“We want development to occur where there is available or nearby infrastructure. We are an agricultural community and we want to be able to preserve agricultural land as well,” Bailey previously told the News-Sun.
A point she said they will continue to focus on.
Efforts to boost the local housing market were temporarily put on hold due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, Bailey said they are looking to hold conversations next month and hope to have the housing consortium up and running in the near future.
This follows a series of discussions held in the beginning of the year that went over some of the findings of the comprehensive housing study, which was conducted by the Greater Ohio Policy Center.
That organization, according to its website, “is focused on improving the communities of Ohio through growth strategies and research.
Bailey said that she wanted to continue having those conversations as housing is an issue that will not soon go away. She said that having available housing stock and looking at ways to grow the population is key to economic development in the county.
The News-Sun previously reported that lower housing stock, coupled with high demand has led to a continued stable market in the area even during the pandemic.
The study commissioned by the Champaign Economic Partnership looked at common housing challenges in the city of Urbana as well as the villages of Mechanicsburg, North Lewisburg and St. Paris. It also compared municipalities in the county to others in the state that are tackling similar problems such as having aging housing stock, a fair amount of blighted properties and limited land for new housing developments.
In Champaign County, it was noted that 75% of homes there were built before 1990, according to the Greater Ohio Policy Center.
Additionally, there has been a total of 324 permits filed in the county since 2010 for the construction of single family homes.
It was also found that about 80% of new home construction since 2010 has occurred outside municipal boundaries in the county.
“It can be within a township or another unincorporated territory,” said Maria Walliser-Wejebe, a research associate with the policy center, earlier this year.
The study cost about $40,000 and came from funds set aside by the Champaign County Commissioners that are to be used for economic development. In addition, the analysis offered a total of 22 recommendations that followed six main themes.
The recommendations fell into the categories of prioritizing down towns and main streets, ensuring that local governments are strong partners to development, protecting existing housing stock and preventing it from declining, having creative financing and funding strategies and maintaining affordability.