Struthers maximizes its resources for city’s gain
Struthers, like many other communities throughout the Mahoning Valley, continues to struggle with the triple whammy of a declining population, a generally shrinking tax base and constantly rising costs for vital city services.
But unlike some communities, Struthers has weathered its fiscal storm relatively unscathed. It appears to have done so through a combination of keen financial management punctuated by savvy and robust use of outside grant opportunities.
The proof lies in the recently passed 2018 Struthers municipal budget that contains operating revenue of about $12 million and a taxpayer-based general fund of $5.3 million. That represents a substantial jump from the city government spending blueprint from five years ago in which operating revenue stood at only $8.4 million and the general fund totaled $3.9 million.
A healthy chunk of that growth can be traced to the ability of the city of 10,200 residents to buttress its tax collections with additional community-enhancing grant funds.
Such competitive grant opportunities from state, federal and private sources abound for those with the foresight and resolve to seek them out. In 2015, for example, the U.S. government disbursed $625 billion in grant monies to states and local communities across the country.
Though such so-called “free money” often comes with several bureaucratic strings attached, they do enable much needed improvements for communities of all sizes that otherwise likely would go by the wayside.
A stellar case in point can be found in Struthers’ 2018 budget that was adopted last month. It includes more than $1 million this year for a hodgepodge of road and construction projects in all sectors of the largely blue-collar town.
Among some of the larger projects are:
Resurfacing of state Route 289 from the city’s border with Lowellville to Bridge Street. The project will cost $320,000, with the lion’s share – $256,000 – covered by an Ohio Department of Transportation grant.
Resurfacing six streets – Smithfield, West Spring, West Sexton, West Harvey and West Como streets and Oakview Avenue – at a cost of $383,000. About two-thirds of that cost will be picked up by a grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission.
Installation of 4,500 feet of sidewalks costing $208,000 with the city picking up only $50,000 of that bill.
In the road resurfacing projects, Struthers leaders also displayed foresighted and cost-conscious strategic planning. Mayor Terry Stocker said the city plans to use fiberglass-reinforced asphalt in the repaving projects because that material tends to resist damage caused by temperature-related growth and expansion.
“If it can add an additional five years to our roads before they need repaved, that’s huge for us,” he said.
In the end, Struthers’ success in maximizing its resources through aggressive pursuit of grant opportunities and responsible fiscal oversight paves the way for a more attractive community to potential residents and businesses and serves as a working example for other communities to follow.