As prescribed by the City charter, the city manager is to annually present a state of the city message. In a year like no other, the key message is simple: our City remains strong despite struggles abound. 2020 has presented challenges unprecedented for our generation. Yet Xenia knowns resiliency, and we have endured a long and difficult year with unity, sharing the promise of better times to come.
The COVID‐19 pandemic has affected pretty much every aspect of City operations during this calendar year. Even in light of this significant obstacle, City staff has performed exceptionally while ensuring that core safety and utility services are sustained without interruption. Staff members are being personally impacted by the virus, and as the sickness spreads, adjustments in service delivery have been necessary and may continue to be needed to ensure adequate manpower for service response.
As we emerge from the virus in 2021, it will be time to take a fresh look at a number of core operations to be certain that the City is employing the right number and type of staffing and that our operational structure is managing services efficiently. In particular, Public Safety leadership will be preparing a study to review operations and service delivery to certify that our approach to essential law enforcement, fire/rescue, and emergency medical services presents the best value to residents and is sustainable.
Leadership will also continue working with our Public Service staff to review operational effectiveness for our utility and maintenance services. With resources projected to be steady but not in abundance, it is imperative that we achieve a good value and return for the investments our community makes in these critical infrastructure areas. Collaborative evaluation of Public Service will position our team to identify deficiencies and determine how we improve going forward.
As always, the services we can provide to the public are linked directly to the revenue base supporting operations. As one can imagine, pandemic shutdowns ordered by the state adversely impacted many local business operations for extended periods of time this past year, which in turn impaired productivity and ultimately tax base. The City has seen unfortunate reductions in most major revenue lines in 2020, among which include gas tax revenues (which fund street maintenance), hotel/motel tax (which supports our general capital replacement efforts), and municipal court fees (which are intended to pay for court operations). While most revenue lines have seen major reductions, we are pleased to report that our income tax base has held fairly stable compared to the prior year. This is critical because income tax is by far the key operating resource on which the City relies on for most of our essential services like fire and police. That our income tax has been stable and not seen a reduction even as many businesses were closed for a significant portion of the year is evidence to the strength of our core economic conditions.
Indeed, the Xenia marketplace has experienced substantive growth in the past year. The local residential market is as strong as we’ve experienced in recent memory with existing home sales well exceeding historic rates and new home construction remaining very active. Experiencing major demand for housing in our community is a really encouraging sign. On the retail front our community is welcoming multiple new establishments downtown and in the Progress Drive area. From Harbor Freight to Skyline, new firms are planting roots locally even as the national retail sector struggles from the pandemic. These and other metrics seem to demonstrate strong core economic conditions. Collectively viewed, this bodes well for our community’s financial future.
A strong local tax base and growing economy are critically important for our community. Expanding service demand requires increasing means to meet these needs. This combined with legacy needs, including street rehabilitation and neighborhood revitalization, will require increased and sustained financial capital to address. While City leaders may not have all the answers on how we address these competing priorities, such needs are top of mind as we move into a (hopefully) more stable new year.
Infrastructure rehab and daily services are without question key areas of concern, but equally important are ever‐present social concerns in our community. Addressing family poverty and the diverse challenges of homeless individuals are persistent needs that we collectively—local government, churches, businesses community, and residents—must face together to overcome. Yet perhaps equally urgent are social issues stemming from the pandemic and state government’s responses in dealing with it. As community members, we are troubled by the isolation of seniors, the cancellation of milestone events for our young adults, and the interruption of life’s precious moments for us all. We are rightly concerned that the likelihood of depression, domestic abuse, and substance abuse are rapidly increasing during this pandemic period. Finding ways to sustain relationships and safely support one another are critical community needs.
In Xenia, with the rest of our nation, we will face a new year with many in need and much uncertainty; however, our community’s and nation’s history has shown that we always rise to the occasion and overcome. The strength of our faith, the love of our families, and the support of our friends—these are foundational elements in our community and their collective power gives rise to confidence for our future. Undeterred by the struggles of our present challenges, the state of Xenia is strong, and we look forward to a new year with optimism and hope for recovery, reunion, and restoration of all of the joys this life in our small city has to offer. God bless.