BG finance director keeps numbers in line PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by By HAROLD BROWN Sentinel City Editor   
Saturday, 23 January 2010 08:17
Brian Bushong is the finance Director for Bowling Green. 1/20/10 (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Brian Bushong believes teamwork has played a key role in helping Bowling Green avoid some of the financial problems facing other cities in Ohio.
"We involved each division and department, giving them a range of targets between four and eight percent reductions," BG's finance director said. "The lesson was intended to help people prioritize within their own operations. It wasn't done with the idea of taking funds away. It was intended to keep everyone involved and to reduce costs."
Bushong has relied on city tax commissioner Cheryl Layman to keep him updated on revenue. "She tracks several (employment) sectors, health care, education, industry, retail and personal to get an idea of how things are going. We have some diversity in our revenue and I think that's also why we have done better than some other communities," he said.
Mayor John Quinn said Bushong has developed a reputation for telling people what they may not want to hear.
"The city has been blessed for a long time with talented financial people. Brian brings a real attention to detail. He has kept us informed. We get details when things are not going well. We don't have to wait to get information. We get it whether we want it or not," Quinn said.
Before joining the city three years ago, Bushong was budget director at the University of Toledo for six years and was at the school for 11 years. He dealt with declining budgets as enrollment fell and state aid to higher education was in decline.
Bushong said city officials became concerned about city budgets when the real estate markets began to falter and income tax revenue stagnated and then started to fall. He said the decline in tax revenue trailed the national trend by a quarter or two and he expects a local recovery will trail by at least a quarter. After a six percent decline in revenue in 2009, the city is expecting revenue to be flat for 2010.
One of his "indicators" is electric consumption. Bushong told city council in December that electric consumption rose in the city during the last quarter of 2009. "What we don't know yet is if that meant a few employees were working a lot of overtime or if more employees were being called back. We have to wait until the end of January for the fourth quarter income tax filings," he said.
In the short term Bushong believes the city is on solid ground but is concerned about a long-term effect on replacing expensive equipment. "We're no longer able to put money aside for ambulances, fire engines, roofs and police cruisers. You can get away with that for a couple of years but then you start to get into an emergency situation."
He praised city employees for their part in keeping the city on track. There were no raises in 2009 and all five unions have a wage-reopener in this the final year of their three-year contracts. "We've tried to be very transparent with information," he said. Personnel Director Barb Ford and Bushong are the city's chief negotiators.
The city has reduced staff in the past year, not replacing several staff members who have retired but there have been no layoffs.
Bushong remains concerned about the long-term health of special income tax funds that support the fire division. But Quinn said the city will focus on getting the parks and recreation replacement levy approved on the May ballot. "We're watching numbers as closely as we did last year and will have meetings at least monthly to see where we stand," Quinn said.
Away from his day job, Bushong has played trumpet 28 years with the Tower Brass Quintet, is a regular with the Adrian, Mich., symphony and fills in with the Toledo Symphony. He holds a music education degree from BGSU, a masters in music from Florida State and a masters in business administration from BGSU.

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