ADRIAN — When Adrian's new finance director resigned three weeks onto the job, it left the city in a bind in the middle of preparing its next budget.
The coronavirus pandemic made budget preparations even more difficult with social distancing and uncertainty with state revenue projections.
Despite the challenges, a budget was passed and through the process the city found its next finance director.
The Adrian City Commission approved the appointment of Nathan Owen as finance director on Monday. Owen had been serving in the position on an interim basis following Peter Rancatore's resignation.
City administrator Nathan Burd worked closely with Owen during the budget planning process, and it's where Burd said the new finance director impressed.
"It certainly gives me comfort for him to take the reigns," Burd said. "It erased any concerns I had in my mind."
"It was definitely challenging but the whole staff at the city came together," Owen added.
Owen recently marked four years with the city and said working his way up to finance director was the goal when he started as the assistant director.
"I'm excited for the opportunity," he said. "Definitely unusual circumstances … but we're working through it."
Owen received a positive response from commission members during Monday's meeting, who seemed genuinely happy for his promotion.
Mayor Angela Sword Heath said Owen was "first one in, last one out" during the budget planning.
"He was really trying to tackle all parts of the job and working crazy hours and having to tackle cutting a budget quite a bit very quickly … he has handled that very well," the mayor said.
"I was really happy to see how well received (Owen) was by the commission," Burd added.
The city administrator said they briefly considered applicants from the job search that led to the hiring of Rancatore. Owen was one of those candidates and easily stood out, especially after the current budget planning. Burd said they did not think another multi-month search was worth it.
The budget is expected to be more fluid than in recent years. About the only guarantee is that it will change.
State revenue streams are crucial to a municipality's budget. Funding like gas taxes is what makes local road projects possible.
Unfortunately for communities across the state, no one is sure what state revenue is going to look like. Projections are provided every few months but the most recent set did not provide the certainty anyone would have liked.
Burd said most recent projections were "favorable" toward Adrian, but it's hard to imagine a scenario where gas tax revenue isn't reduced given that stay-at-home orders have kept more people from traveling.
Commissioner Allen Heldt said his BP gas station north of town is down 60% in gallons sold compared to this time last year.
"I would anticipate a drastic cut in gas revenue sharing," he said.
The city has planned $2 million in road projects for the next year but those could be delayed or even cut. Projects include work on Michigan Avenue, North Scott Street and Addison Street.
One road project, reconstruction of Lowe Avenue from Treat Street to the dead end, has already been delayed. The project includes a special assessment district where residents in the area would afford part of the work. The commission voted to postpone the project in April.
Sales tax is another state revenue stream that is up in the air.
"Nobody is really in a great position to feel certain about what's going to happen in the next 14, 15 months," Burd said.
Capital projects were reduced by $300,000 in planning the budget. Burd said they were further able to delay expenses by putting off purchases, such as a new lawnmower, and staff training.
The city administrator has more than once said the budget is an interim budget. Amendments are expected when more information becomes available.