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Offenbacher Kämmer now fears lean years after a record surplus

Zfor the fourth time in a row a positive annual result, this time in an unimagined amount of 27.4 million euros, and then also almost 43 million euros freely available money in the city treasury: One could almost think that golden times are dawning in Offenbach. But the opposite is to be feared, said treasurer Martin Wilhelm (SPD) when he presented the key figures of the 2021 annual financial statements determined for the municipality.

The surplus – only a significantly lower increase of 5.7 million euros was actually expected – can be explained by comparatively high tax revenues and equally strong key allocations of more than 206 million euros recently. However, the former is largely due to a one-off effect that cannot be repeated so quickly. And with the allocations from the state of Hesse from the municipal financial equalization, the city, which has supposedly become richer as a result, will have to make do with around 15 million euros less this year, said the chief financial officer.

Very frugal when spending money

Taken together, Offenbach will have to budget even better in the next few years and be very economical when it comes to spending money because the city’s financial situation will remain “extremely tight”. The economic prospects are very uncertain in view of the Ukraine war, rising energy prices, inflation currently at almost eight percent and higher interest rates in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, the city’s expenditures are unlikely to decrease in the next few years, according to Wilhelm.

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On the contrary, the expenses reported in the budget have increased significantly since 2016, from 422 million at the time to more than 563 million, despite all the savings efforts. Social spending and the cost of staff and employee pensions continued to be among the biggest chunks. According to the finance department, most of the more than 24 million euros that were spent last year on the Offenbach vaccination center alone were taken over by the state of Hesse.

The state’s debt relief program, known as Hessenkasse, has actually had a positive effect in Offenbach: Not only has it been possible to drastically reduce old debts of 545 million euros, but also to noticeably increase the city’s equity ratio and liquidity within five years . However, the joy of finally having a little more freely available cash in the till is clouded by the fact that the liquid funds could be almost completely used up in the next few years, which are likely to be “worse” again.

Nevertheless, there should be no savings in investments: These include, for example, the expansion and modernization of schools and kindergartens, important transport projects such as the redesign of the market square and the Kaiserleikreisel, but also the topics of housing and sports facilities and climate protection. According to the city, around 100 million euros are planned for the strengthening of the infrastructure in 2022 alone.

Samson and Biospring settled

It is hoped that the conversion of the former Clariant site into a modern innovation campus will, once things really get going there, result in rising trade tax revenue. With Samson AG and BioSpring Gesellschaft für Biotechnologie mbH, two promising companies have already settled in Offenbach.

Turning the tax screw, whether it’s the trade tax to be paid by companies or the property tax that affects almost all citizens, Wilhelm, like the traffic light coalition in the town hall, doesn’t think is a good idea. This should be avoided if possible. However, the city treasurer himself should know best how uncertain financial forecasts are in times like these – and how difficult it is to keep such promises.

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