Hilliard Northwest News

State of the city

Mayor: Financial integrity, vision make Hilliard 'vibrant'

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Showcasing some residential and commercial developments under way in Hilliard, Mayor Don Schonhardt described the city as "vibrant" during his 18-minute state-of-the-city address March 12 in council chambers at the Hilliard Municipal Building.

But Schonhardt began his annual address by alluding to the fiscal responsibility demonstrated since he began serving in 2004, even referencing his previous tenure as president of City Council.

He said the administration and City Council over the past 11 years have tried to approve balanced budgets, failing to do so only once, in 2008.

Schonhardt cited his effort in 2002 as City Council president to introduce legislation to maintain a cash reserve necessary to prevent a reduction in services or an increase in taxes to cover temporary revenue losses, such as those experienced in the recession of 2008.

It is a practice the Ohio General Assembly is considering mandating via House Bill 337 and an indication Hilliard's effort was ahead of its time, Schonhardt said.

"(We) have worked collaboratively to improve our operating efficiency, reduce operating costs and enhance revenues without reducing the quality of city services and without raising the income tax," Schonhardt said.

Schonhardt said the city's cash reserve now is about $10 million because general-fund expenses were $1.6 million less than estimated and income-tax revenue increased.

"Last year, we saw our income-tax revenues exceed the $20 million mark for the first time ... due in large part to the continued growth in jobs in Hilliard and the financial stability of our businesses," Schonhardt said.

Schonhardt lauded the city's safety departments before turning his attention to infrastructure improvements and development.

"The impact of new business is felt throughout the community, fostering growth and demand in all other sectors of the business community," Schonhardt said.

The mayor highlighted 1,500 relocated jobs and 500 new jobs at Verizon Wireless on Britton Parkway and 45 new jobs estimated to generate about $741,000 in income-tax revenue at Pediatric Associates on Trueman Boulevard, just south of Davidson Road.

Other subjects included the One Mill Run office building.

"Eleven years ago, the nine-story One Mill Run office building was only 30 percent occupied," Schonhardt said. "Today, it is 100 percent occupied (and) 71 percent of the tenants are publicly traded companies."

Schonhardt gave the Hilliard Grand apartments on Riggins Road as an example of high-quality developments the city expects and demands, and he cited Landmark Lofts as a blueprint for a mixed use development.

Schonhardt also highlighted Hilliard's Station Park and the Hilliard Civic and Cultural Arts Center, both of which are to be constructed or improved upon, beginning this year.

Both facilities are on Center Street, where further improvements in supporting amenities will create a "civic corridor" on Center Street, from Main Street to the Heritage Trail trailhead, Schonhardt said.

"As you can see ... the state of our city is vibrant because it has been developed on a rock-solid foundation of financial integrity and vision, a foundation that has been the priority of this administration from day one," Schonhardt said.

Such efforts are worthwhile, Schonhardt concluded, because Hilliard is "a unique community where one can truly find real people and real possibilities."

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