Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Inflation, city priorities discussed at Oxford City Council

Inflation brought on by two years in a pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine was on full display at Oxford’s City Council meeting Tuesday, April 5.

Two annual items made an appearance in the resolutions passed: the 2022 street resurfacing and maintenance contract and the city’s property and casualty insurance coverage.

Both contracts saw the highest price hikes in the past decade.

The contract for street resurfacing and repairs went to Barrett Paving Materials for an estimated $435,000. Oxford has accepted bids from Barrett in the past and hit a high water mark of $499,000 in 2020. Last year, the work cost $350,000.

Now, it’s ricocheted up by nearly 25%. Only the change from 2014 to 2015 comes close, with an increase of 18%.

Mike Dreisbach, service director, said the city received three bids for the resurfacing contract this year. The other two would have come with price tags of $456,000 and $605,000.

“We were disappointed with the unit costs on the contract,” Dreisbach said. “With the price of oil, paving is very dependent on oil for asphalt and transportation.”

Both the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have contributed to rising energy costs globally. Fuel in Ohio cost an average of $3.92 a gallon during the week of April 4, 2022, up significantly from $2.79 a year earlier and just $1.51 in 2020.

The city’s property and casualty insurance similarly saw its largest increase in 10 years, jumping 13% from $168,000 last year to $190,000 this year. 

Joe Newlin, Oxford’s Finance Director, said the city gets its properties appraised yearly to account for inflation. A large portion of this year’s insurance increase comes from rising property values and the largest increase in construction costs since 1970.

“Last year, the cost of building materials went sky-high, so $15,000 of the $21,000 [sic] increase … just has to do with the appraisal cost,” Newlin said. “ … Inflation is affecting everything. Insurance is one of the culprits that’s gonna be affected by [the] inflation of these times.”

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

Councilor David Prytherch said he was concerned about the city’s ability to continue functioning normally as the price of goods and services increase while incomes remain stagnant.

“We’re looking at a number of things that are getting more expensive rapidly, yet the city’s financial foundation is on income taxes, and incomes are not going up as fast,” Prytherch said. “Does this mean we’re gonna be making some tough choices [in the future]?”

Newlin said the pandemic has been unique during his 21-year tenure working in city finance.

“Since I’ve been doing this since 2001, [costs] ebb and flow,” Newlin said. “Now, nothing is normal, so it’s really hard to say, especially after COVID. It’s hard to say what’s going on anymore.”

Council also officially passed its 2022 priorities during the meeting. The city will focus on legislation and projects related to affordable housing, climate sustainability and economic development, the same priorities as last year.

New this year, the city also formally laid out “vision, values and goal areas.” These include sense of place, quality of life, stewardship and service excellence.

Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene said these focus areas will make it easier for different departments to understand what individual projects build toward.

“We as department staff realized that some of the things we work on didn’t really have a place to live as a goal,” Greene said. “We wanted to share our progress, what we were working on, but needed that kind of a reporting structure for that.”

Specific goals that build toward each value are available to view on the city website.

Council will meet again at 7:30 p.m., April 19, in the Oxford Courthouse.