Monday, February 25, 2019
Check out the State of the City, 2019 and the full 2018 Annual Report here.
As we head into the new year, we pause to reflect on the success of the past, goals for the next year, and to strategize about the challenges ahead. In 2018 we celebrated numerous ground breakings and ribbon cuttings in all the various business districts in the City. Corporex announced that the Ovation project would soon be breaking ground after many years. The long awaited, multi-year, Route 9 project came to completion with the construction of its final phase, opening up a new growth corridor for the City. New Riff opened its west side location in 2018, and the Academy on 4th Residential development broke ground.
On the fiscal side, the City also continued to grow. For the calendar year 2018, the City ended with a General Fund Cash Balance of $3,425,880, up $400,000 from 2017. Due to this, the City was able for the first time in over ten years, not to renew the short-term tax anticipation note (TAN), and to establish a reserve fund. Our 2018-2019 budget reflected success with revenues surpassing budgeted projections. Over the last four years, the City’s net payroll revenues have grown over $1,000,000. In 2018 the City gained a net 40 new companies doing business in the City, with 124 net new employees.
Business growth in the City continues to increase, which is critical since we rely on payroll as our primary source of revenue, accounting for approximately 35% of all revenue. Our largest or fastest growing businesses are PL Marketing, Kroger, Defender Direct, Divisions, Inc., Impact Sales, St. Elizabeth, DJ Joseph Co., National Band and Tag Co. Inc., I-Wireless and Nexigen Communications.
While great things are happening in the City, we also face challenges in this new year. Increased costs related to personnel, specifically, crippling increases in pension costs dictated by the state are expected to increase by $1.6 million over the next few years.
Due to the mandated pension increase and other rising costs, we are looking at ways to maintain an adequate level of service in the future within the constraints of our revenue. Perhaps the most difficult challenge for Newport and for surrounding cities is addressing the delivery of public services to our residents. We continue to operate with a very small efficient staff and make every effort to provide a high quality of service in a cost-effective manner (having reduced City staffing by nearly 30 employees in recent years). Currently we have approximately 115 full time employees, with more than 80 in public safety.
The City has continued to invest in its aging infrastructure and equipment, however aging infrastructure and rising costs continue to be a challenge. During the next few years, we anticipate spending several million dollars on infrastructure related projects and equipment acquisition, including upgrades to the 800 MHz radio system used for public safety. The 2018-2019 Budget and work priorities include a focus on capital improvements, including expending the funds from the 2015 Bond Issuance for several major ongoing projects.
Much was accomplished in 2018, and 2019 continues to look very promising. Construction on Ovation and changes at Newport on the Levee will kick off the year with a flourish. Construction on Carothers Road and design work on the South Monmouth street (US 27) will commence this year, including a partnership with surrounding cities on smart corridor initiatives. We will continue with our City-wide street repaving program and paver replacement and streetscape improvements on Monmouth Street. Bernadette Watkins Park in the West Side will continue to be developed.
Our goals for 2019 continue to include: further redevelopment of residential and commercial properties; working on quality of life issues - such as parks and recreation; and maintaining a safe walkable community. From a fiscal perspective, we continue working on growing revenues and keeping our expenses reasonable.
Thomas J. Fromme