Xenia leader stepping down after 33 years

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Xenia finance director retiring after 33 years

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Improving the city of Xenia’s credit rating and dealing with budget shortfalls through the Great Recession are among the most rewarding and challenging moments Mark Bazelak highlighted from his career as the city’s finance director.

The 56-year-old was hired as a finance clerk in March 1984 after graduating from The Ohio State University and is set to retire after a 33-year career.

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Bazelak was paid $110,426 as an annual salary last year. City council members have appointed Assistant City Manager Ryan Duke to replace Bazelak, whose last day will be July 31.

Duke previously worked as Bazelak’s assistant from January 2008 to November 2014 when he accepted the assistant city manager position.

Bazelak, a 1979 Xenia High School graduate, was promoted to assistant finance director in October 1988 and served in that role until county commissioners appointed him to the head finance position in September 2004.

“I have been fortunate to work with many tremendous people over the years,” Bazelak said. “As I leave, there continue to be challenges to address, but Xenia is moving in a positive direction with the promise of endless possibilities.”

The city’s future is brighter in part because its bond rating was bumped up to AA- through the Standard & Poor credit agency, a change that city leaders credit to Bazelak’s financial management practices and policies.

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“As finance director, the thing I’m most proud of is the stewardship through the Great Recession,” Bazelak said. “We were facing significant challenges like other communities during that time. We were able to come up with a plan to work our way through that.”

The plan was to go to the taxpayers to approve a half-percent income tax hike, which voters approved in November 2010. Before that, voters in Xenia hadn’t approved a similar tax increase since 1991.

That levy results in $2.5 million in annual revenue for the city, which splits the revenue between operations and capital improvements.

“Ultimately, we were able to make the case to our citizens, which enabled us to maintain public safety services and investments for the future,” Bazelak said.

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Xenia’s annual budget to support city services last year was $17.6 million, and there was a positive cash flow carried over to this year of about $800,000. Bazelak said he’s anticipating another positive cash flow carry over into 2018, barring any changes to state funding or other unexpected revenue losses.

Xenia City Council President Mike Engle said in a prepared statement that the city has been “fortunate to have been in the hands of such a seasoned fiscal manager and director.”

“His rational fiscal stewardship and stellar performance in the finance department for more than 33 years served the taxpayers of Xenia well,” Engle’s statement reads.