A "fiscal physical" issued by the state auditor paints a bleak picture of finances in the Portage County seat of Ravenna, but a mostly good report elsewhere in the county.
Aurora and Kent both received perfect reports, with each city scoring 17 positive indicators.
Officials in Ravenna are quick to point out that, while finances were tight this time last year, the passage of a second income tax hike since the data was collected helped turn the city's finances around.
"This report comes as no surprise to us," said Ravenna Finance Director Kim Cecora, referring to the "Financial Health Indictors" released last week from State Auditor David Yost's office.
The reports test the finances in each city and the county, giving 17 "indicators" of each municipality's financial health. Each indicator is marked by color, with green for "positive" indicators, yellow for "cautionary" ones and red for a "critical outlook."
Aurora's perfect score was no surprise to Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin. "This is just another positive indication of Aurora's strong financial direction," she said, noting Aurora was one of 22 cities out of 247 that has 17 of 17 positive outlook scores.
"I have to say, we already received confirmation of our AAA Fitch rating, which is aa very key and important measure of Aurora's financial stability and outlook.
"The state auditor's measures, in which Aurora scored with a positive outlook in every single measure, was simply a confirmation of what I already knew to be true."
The mayor said the strong rating from Fitch could enable the city to get low interest rates on debt.
"We do not have current plans to issue debt, but the Fitch rating is an important and critical evaluation of the city's fiscal stability and outlook. We work very hard to manage our finances wisely, and that certainly reflected in the AAA Fitch rating, as well as our evaluation from the auditor."
Portage County Auditor Janet Esposito said the county only received two "cautionary" scores. One was in property taxes, where foreclosures affected countywide finances, and another indicator that states the county spent more than it took in.
"I'm proud of what we accomplished," she said. "We're proud of our departments, and our departments work hard."
She attributed the county's stability to income tax receipts, but she is concerned that they have been "stagnant" in recent years because of online shopping. "I'm pleased," she said. "I'd like to be more pleased."
Streetsboro Mayor Glenn Broska said he's pleased with the city's performance on Yost's report. The city had a "positive outlook" on all but one indicator.
"This is actually a great report for us," he said. "We've done wonderful things with finances in the city. Anybody that says anything different is just wrong."
The city received a yellow "cautionary outlook" for a decline in general fund property tax revenue. According to data from the auditor's office, the city's revenue from property taxes went from about $1.1 million in 2014 to about $757,000 in 2015, a decrease of nearly 37 percent.
That drop occurred because of a change in the way hotel and motel property tax was accounted for, said Streetsboro Finance Director Jenny Esarey.
"In 2014, the auditor of state's office instructed [Streetsboro] to remove the hotel motel tax collections from the property and local taxes revenue line into its own line item," she stated in a Jan. 26 email to City Council.
"Since the hotel motel tax revenues were removed, it is skewing the analysis figure, and will right itself out moving forward for comparable purposes. On a cash basis, the city has seen an increase in property tax revenue in the last few years."
Ravenna's report shows two "cautionary" indicators and six "critical" ones, the highest number of critical indicators in Portage County. Those indicators all address the city's general fund, which has been struggling for years.
The reports use data from December 2015 -- three months before Ravenna voters approved an income tax for the city's safety forces. It was the second income tax approved in a year, with the first one earmarked for street and sidewalk repairs.