Mayor touts financial firsts in city’s history
By Blenda Copeland
Financially speaking, the state of the city is well, dotted with firsts for the municipality, Phenix City Mayor Eddie Lowe told a full audience Feb. 1 at the 5th annual State of the City address.
In a selected highlight, Lowe said 76 percent of the city’s assets are cash. He also said the city’s reserves, for the first time in its history, totaled $14.4 million.
“That’s worth clapping for,” he said. “Cash is king.”
The mayor also pointed out that the city has a 141-day operating reserve. To put that in perspective, he said most cities “would die” for a 60-day reserve, but would prefer one closer to 90 days.
“Financially, the city is in the best shape it’s ever been in,” he said.
As he reviewed multiple data charts, he showed the audience that about $17.5 million of income has funded the city’s debt and that the city’s net general debt has decreased since 2013 by about 9 percent. Another important point he noted is that the city’s coverage ratio in 2017 was 159.23 percent: in everyday terms, he explained that means for every dollar spent paying debts, “We have 59 cents left over,” which indicates the city is in a very good position.
Meanwhile, the city has maintained its AA-/Stable credit rating from Standard & Poors (Sept. 2017).
“We had a great year in 2017 as far as income,” he continued, noting the city was able to keep expenses down.
He also reported the average per capita for household income sat at around an average of $41,381 (about $15,000 behind the national average). He explained that figure is important because if it can be increased, it could increase the city’s credit rating.
Included in the presentation were the review of multiple projects the city has completed or will soon complete. An interesting sidenote when talking about projects is that in repairing sinkhole-related drainage issues, the city has had some sinkholes that have cost well over $1 million to repair.
Eric Armour was one of the youngest adults in the room that listened to the mayor’s presentation. A newly returned resident who grew up in Phenix City and has spent the past eight years abroad as a government contracted diesel mechanic, he brought his 8-year-old son Princeton with him.
Armour said the most encouraging information he heard was about the balance sheet showing the city’s growth and its financial stability. The most concerning information he received was seeing the strong number of people who showed up from District 3 to talk about traffic safety. “Seems like a lot of District 3 showed up,” he said. Armour said he was raised in District 3, but now lives in District 2. Now returning to the community of his childhood, he aspires to perhaps go into entrepreneurship doing rentals or possibly opening an at-risk home for boys – maybe in Columbus.
Nine residents asked the council questions at the end of the presentation about various subjects. They included: revitalizing the look of the oldest part of the city (downtown); whether grants could be sought to help older people and veterans renovate their homes; an attempt to talk about an animal shelter-related issue; an attempt to talk about a possible volunteer program idea; fixing roads in District 3 for safety; the city school district’s B rating on a state-rated A to F report card and many other issues; increasing traffic safety around Knowles Road near the Crosswinds development; whether there are any upcoming plans to help veterans; and more questions about improving traffic safety in District 3.
Total assets $14,426,817
Total liabilities $1,620,726
Operating days reserve 141
Annual budget $37,363,622
Net General debt $60,725,000
Self-supporting debt $93,835,635
total general debt $154,560,635
beginning cash on hand $6,958,983
property, lodging, & other taxes $7,172,217
business licenses $696,423
utility revenues $3,554,908
net operating income $260,326
total (of above figures) $18,642,857