Mayor David Held: Working together, "That's really what makes North Canton, I think, a much better place than other communities."

NORTH CANTON In their annual joint address on Wednesday, school and government officials offered an optimistic vision of 2017.

"It's all of us working together. That's really what makes North Canton, I think, a much better place than other communities," said Mayor David Held, in his annual State of the City.

Held was joined by North Canton City Schools Superintendent Jeff Wendorf who presented his State of the Schools. The joint address, held at the North Canton Civic Center, is a yearly tradition sponsored by the North Canton Area Chamber of Commerce. 

The event was filmed by Hoover High School's video production team and will be broadcast on channel TV11.

State of the City

North Canton has had the same primary objectives since 2005 — to bring jobs to the city and operate a cost-effective and efficient government, Held said.

"Jobs is our number one objective. Why? Because without jobs, there's no tax revenue. If we don't have tax revenue, we do not have police, fire, EMS, we don't get roads paved," he said.

The city has also maintained a steady 1.5 percent income tax rate, despite an economic downturn and the loss of the Hoover Co. in 2007, Held said. 

In 2016, the city had total general fund revenue of $7.61 million.

Income tax collection was at $6.75 million, down from about $7.1 million in 2015. That decrease was caused by timing differences between the city and the Regional Income Tax Authority — the city contracted with RITA for tax collection for the first time this year  — and that missing revenue should be reflected in 2017 collections, Held said.

Held touted work done by city officials and departments and praised capital improvement projects. Those included $627,288 to overhaul Dogwood Pool and $460,418 on street designs and improvements.

"We want to maintain a tradition of excellence in North Canton. Everything that we do, we want it to be top notch," he said.

Held also promoted some upcoming developments in the city and some of 2016's "big projects" such as the $16 million Sanctuary Grande senior living center, $10 million spent so far on Walsh University's global learning center and $42 million spent so far on the west factory section of the Hoover District project.

Big announcements on other projects are on the way, Held said.

"We've always been very, very careful to never announce a project until it's signed," he said. "What we don't want to do is give false expectations."

State of the Schools

Last year's State of the Schools was one of Wendorf's first duties as superintendent, he said. 

The theme last year was planning, Wendorf said. This year, it's about the next steps.

"We've done a lot of listening. We've asked for a lot of input. We've had a lot of participation and we're ready to kick off a lot of great plans (based on that)," he said.

The district will present the results of its Facility Master Planning Project to the Board of Education next month. Those plans call for Hoover High School to be renovated and for a new middle school and two new elementary schools to be built.

Hoover is the only school that meets the state's threshold for renovation instead of rebuilding, Wendorf said. 

The state will pay 37 percent of the $90 million plan, he said. 

"Our kids deserve to be in a good facility. In a facility that's flexible for instruction. In a facility that's appropriate for them to be able to do the things that they're going to on the job in the future and in college," Wendorf said. "The days of desks in rows are gone."

The plan is not a done deal. It still requires two board approvals, Wendorf said.

The district will likely seek a levy. 

The district has taken significant steps to cut expenses — they have a hiring freeze and have cut jobs through attrition — but can't keep up with rising costs, Wendorf said.

"We're in a position where the district will need to talk, again, very soon, about way to increase our revenues," he said, adding that 2010 was the last levy.

Wendorf's address included a presentation from Assistant Superintendent Dave Pialati on the school's academic achievements. 

North Canton routinely ranks as one of the best districts in Stark County, if not the state, Pialati said, citing the school's achievements on state tests and other indicators, as well as numerous opportunities for students.

Reach Jessica at 330-580-8322 or jessica.holbrook@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @jholbrookREP.