As I sit here at 6:32 a.m. on February 2, 2021, I can’t help but wonder what Punxsutawney Phil will predict this morning. Should we anticipate six more weeks of winter or an early spring? Personally, I hope he forecasts six more weeks of winter. If you’re wondering why we wouldn’t want Phil to predict an early spring, remember that the “see-er of all see-ers,” or as some call him, the “prognosticator of all prognosticators” is only correct about 39% of the time. In one hundred twenty-four tries, good old Punxsutawney Phil has only been correct forty-eight times. If we are counting on a groundhog to forecast our winter salt usage, we ought to think twice. The good news is  we are not relying on this timeless little brown fella to guess how much salt will be left in the big barn at the Service Department. Unfortunately, we can’t always rely on the for-profit meteorologists for accurate predictions either. Whether it’s Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast from the crowded stage at Gobblers Knob or Jeff Tanchak’s theatrics on television, we here at the City continue to plan and adjust to ensure safe conditions for the motoring public as our winter lingers on.

Exactly one year ago, pundits and the public alike were prophesizing a year unlike any other. Although a familiar refrain, we were obviously stunned in every sense by the reality of a world that no one could have truly predicted. That said, and as strange and difficult as 2020 was, the City of Kirtland can and should be proud of the way we persevered through one of the most bizarre years on record. In particular, how we came together in the efficient use of and attention to our finances. In late March, the City passed an annual budget forecasting $58,000 in anticipated reserve. One short (long) year later, we are entering 2021 with an unencumbered General Fund carryover balance approaching $1.1 million. Several factors contributed to this carryover: an April 2020 directive implementing a moratorium on non-essential spending, rebates of $275,000 from the Bureau of Workers Compensation, $217,000 in federal Cares Act funding supporting wages and benefits, and by making and carrying out difficult decisions relating to personnel and departmental restructuring.

As we prepare our 2021 appropriation, we are still faced with economic uncertainty and mounting infrastructure and capital needs in our city. As we march through March to pass our city budget the questions will be: How much of our reserve should be spent and how? What other opportunities lie in wait?  And of course, how do we plan for the future? I am confident by working together we can meet our obligations and surmount our challenges.

From Punxsutawney … no, wait, that’s the groundhog… From Russellhurst Drive, Kevin Potter signing off.