Mayor delivers first State-of-the-City address since pandemic’s start

by Melissa Martin

“From my perspective, the state of the city is good. No, actually, it’s great.”

This is what Brecksville Mayor Jerry Hruby told those in attendance at the city’s Human Services Center Feb. 22 as he delivered his 35th State-of-the-City address.

Though the mayor, who has been in office since 1988, typically hosts the address annually, he elected to forego the event in both 2021 and 2022 as a result social distancing guidelines in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That means that aside from this year’s event, his most recent State-of-the-City address was delivered in February of 2020, just two weeks prior to the numerous school and business closures brought about by the pandemic.

“We definitely have a lot to talk about since we haven’t done this in a few years,” Hruby told the crowd at the start of his speech.

During his slide presentation, Hruby credited city council, his department heads and the many employees that operate the city on a day-to-day basis. He also applauded the city’s 13,539 residents for investing in the community – not only by choosing to live in Brecksville, but by making ongoing investments in maintaining their property and volunteering whenever they get the chance.

“When I think of all the people who volunteer to help this city day after day, it’s remarkable,” Hruby said. “But what is even more remarkable is that none of them ever ask for anything in return, nothing at all.”

Crediting the city’s forefathers

Hruby also commended the city’s former and current residents for taking charge during what he calls Brecksville’s “building boom” of the early 2000s, at which time the community itself elected to keep the city small in terms of population. At the time, he said, the city was on its way to becoming a larger municipality than it is currently with a forecasted population of 20,000 residents. That could have had a profound impact on the city’s future, he said.

“But we’re still [at 13,539 residents and 5,545 households] all because the citizens of this community decided to take control,” he said, noting that the decision was made to cut down the number of proposed developments, maintain larger lot sizes with bigger houses and maintain green space.

As far as future development is concerned, Hruby said little residential construction is on the horizon for 2023 and the next few years. He said two additional phases of development in the Woodlands subdivision are anticipated, along with a small number of homes at Valor Acres. He said a smaller subdivision near Snowville and Dewey road is also anticipated and the site of the former Hilton Elementary School, where zoning now allows for approximately 20 homes to be constructed, is one additional possibility.

“Other than knocking down an older home and rebuilding, that’s the end of it,” he said. “Residential development is about done.”

The community’s decision to maintain greenspace, largely due to land conservancies now in place,, Hruby said, has not only helped Brecksville continue to rank among the top suburbs in Northeast Ohio, but it has also enabled the city to maintain a solid tax base that has allowed the city to avoid an increase in property taxes for the 36th consecutive year.

“The last time [the city] passed a levy was in 1987, at which time we passed a 1-mill levy to build the library,” he said.

All the while, the city’s property valuations continue to increase, Hruby said, noting that over the past two years, the city has witnessed a 31% increase in property valuation.

“To those who say our taxes are so high – and they are in some respects – they are that way because your property values continue to grow and grow and grow,” Hruby said noting there are only 14 other local communities that collect a millage less that the city of Brecksville.”

Helping to prevent the city from having to turn to residents for additional financial support, Hruby said, is the fact that the city has received more than $64 million in state and federal grant dollars between 1998 and 2023. In 2022 alone, the city received $22.7 million of that total.

As for the city’s income tax collections, which account for 42% of the city’s annual revenues, it collected nearly $20.5 million in 2022.

“That’s down just slightly from 2021 because so many people are now working from home,” Hruby said.

To illustrate his point, Hruby said PNC Bank once had approximately 1,000 employees working in its building at the south end of the city. Only 25 percent of that number currently work at the facility. The same is true for the number of employees working at Lubrizol, another of the city’s largest employers.

The third, Cross Country Mortgage, opted to relocate its headquarters to Cleveland’s historic district, taking $1 million in income tax revenues with it, Hruby said.

New additions expected

As for 2023, Hruby said income tax collections are already up over the same period in 2022, with additional revenues expected in 2024 with the opening of Valor Acres. In addition to 157 multifamily units, the mixed-use development will also be home to 28 single-family residences and eight single-family condominiums and lofts.

Also in the planning stages for the development are at least two corporate headquarters, a hotel, a coffee shop, a handful of restaurants, a bank, a grocery store and a handful of small retailers.

“There is not going to be any big-box retail here,” Hruby said. “This is not going be a destination center like Crocker Park. This is a business district that is being built to serve those who work there.”

To those who remain critical of the proposed building aesthetics and the development’s proximity to nearby residences, Hruby promises the end result will be a positive one for the community.

“I hope people remember what was at the site of Valor Acres when it was the site of the [Veteran’s Administration] hospital,” he said. “We had 9,990 square feet of brick buildings. I want to remind people of the smokestacks, lights and six-story buildings that were there, along with a retention pond. … What that is being replaced with is going to be a good thing for the city.” ∞

Mayor Jerry Hruby (right) poses with John Kozesky (left), executive
director of the Brecksville Chamber of Commerce, and
Chamber president Kris Toth, whose business, Toth Painting,
was named business of the year. Photos by J. Kananian.