Cedar Point opening delay forces cuts in Sandusky

SANDUSKY, Ohio (WTVG) - The City of Sandusky is making cuts. The Lake Erie town relies heavily on the tourism industry for cash, and this year, due to COVID-19, the budget is busted.

Sandusky City Manager Eric Wobser anticipates the city could lose anywhere from $5-10 million in revenue due to the pandemic.

A majority of that cash comes from Cedar Point. Wobser said the city receives all of the park admission tax and also gets a big boost from lodging and income taxes all tied to those visiting or working in or near the park.

At this time, Cedar Point has not announced an opening date, simply saying they anticipate it could be sometime in mid-May, but that remains to be seen. Wobser said everyday Cedar Point delays opening, it adds up to a loss of $71,000 in tax revenue for Sandusky.

That tax money accounts for 50-60 percent of the annual operating budget. In an effort to stay out of the hole, the city is already making cuts. City administrators have taken a 10 percent pay cut through the end of the year, new projects and programming is on hold, and within the next week, Wobser anticipates layoffs for some city employees. He did not indicate how many people could be out of work but said the first round of cuts will not include any safety services.

Wobser said the pandemic is pinching progress. In the past five years, the city has secured more than $300 million in development. Ongoing projects will continue, including the new campus space for BGSU, Cedar Point and the Shoreline Drive project but new items, like road repairs, are on hold.

"Even being in a strong position going into this, there's no way to plan for that steep of a cut," said Wobser.

There are more than 100 businesses in downtown Sandusky that remain closed due to COVID-19 and Wobser said it is hitting everyone hard; the tourism trickle down will have an effect on the local shops.

"This couldn't have come at a worse possible time for them. They had a slow winter and should be gearing up for visitors," said Wobser.

At this point, the city is tightening its belt, and Wobser is calling on leaders in Washington to step in and provide funding for municipalities like Sandusky that rely heavily on tourism dollars to survive.