REVISED ON 02/25/2015
MASSILLON COUNCIL DISCUSSES
MASSILLON BUDGET DIRECTOR
INADEQUATE ANNUAL CARRYOVER
COUNCILMAN MILAN CHOVAN
PLAN TO INCREASE MPD BY 8 OFFICERS
Even before she took office, Massillon mayor Kathy Catzaro-Perry was pressing the State of Ohio Audtor's (SOA) office to place the city in fiscal emergency.
She was initially denied.
But in May, 2013 she finally succeeded. And even that determination was on the slimmest of criteria: Massillon only meeting one of six criteria that qualifies a city to be thrown in to emergency financial status.
Ever since, it has been a roller coast ride for Massillon finances, to wit:
- Two failed levies one of which (November, 2014) was part of a SOA approved recovery plan,
- A reduced income tax credit that will expire on December 31, 2015 unless a levy passes in the meantime generated about $275,000 (more or less) of revenue for 2014 but which have not yet shown up in city revenues,
- Increased income tax income revenues due to a general Ohio/USA Great Recession recovery,
- A claimed $2.6 million budget deficit by Mayor Catazaro-Perry (at the beginning of her administration in 2012) which miraculously and mysteriously turned into a $785,000 surplus (carryover) in 2015, and
- On and on goes the highs and lows of Massillon finances.
There was considerable discussion of what to do with the $785,000 "apparent?" surplus.
For starters, the $785,000 is not really $785,000 because some $400,000 is spoken for to cover a 27th week payroll obligation due in 2015.
And then last night in sort of discussing the 2015 Massillon budget, council reached a consensus (no votes allowed at work sessions) to designate $123,000 for a workers compensation obligation.
And then there was Councilman Paul Manson (D, at-large) advocating that Massillon institute a $50,000 annual plan move from the general fund to Parks and Recreation.
Only to be disagreed with by Councilman Ed Lewis who wants what remains of the original $785,000 (about $362,000) left alone or, alternatively, some portion thereof to be moved into the capital improvement fund where it is said that Massillon is "millions behind" in dealing with road repair and the purchase of sorely needed equipment (e.g. snowplows, new cruisers, et cetera).
And to top it off, Catazaro-Perry administration financial official Ken Koher (Budget Director/Income Tax Administrator) said in effect that the $785,000 that everybody including his boss (Mayor Kathy) was a pittance compared to fiscal recommending bodies saying that a city in good financial health with a budget of Massillon's size should have an annual carryover (surplus) of some $2.8 million.
Note that Koher ends his points on the annual carryover (surplus) saying that though the $785,000 doesn't cut it, Massillon is heading in the right direction.
The SCPR questions that even though most councilpersons mouth the same phrase.
No new revenues on the horizon, how can Massillon be thought to be heading in the right direction? Austerity and cuts can only do so much, no?
Is there any doubt that Massillon's financial world is a confusing if not a chaotic world?
The really solid bright note from last night's meeting was a plan unveiled by Councilman Milan Chovan (R, at-large) to increase, over 18 months, the numbers of Massillon police from 36 to 44 to get within hailing range of 50 officers that in recent times (10 years ago) once staffed Massillon's security forces.
And get this.
Chovan's plan is likely to save Massillon (which paid $750,000 in police overtime last year) about $200,000 which would go where?
But hold your breath.
Service/Safety Director Al Hennon has signed on.
But it is an open question whether or not the mayor will go along with Chovan's plan.
All of this is confusing, no?
Levy failures, abbreviated income tax credit, general fund surplus, capital improvement deficits, a belligerent major, and policing at a savings.
But that is the order of the day in Massillon these days.
So what is the financial instability attributable to?
A mayor and majority of council who cannot work together, so the SCPR thinks.
Usually, such scenarios are a mixed bag as to whom is at fault.
However, The Report thinks that Massillon topsy-turvy financial world is almost completely, if not totally, the inept leadership of Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry.
Though she clearly lacks the skills, temperament and attitude to be an effective mayor, it is likely that she will be reelected to a new term in November.
There will be some changes on council with the coming and going of the election.
However, it appears to the SCPR that there will still be a majority of council that the mayor will refused to work cooperatively with.
So the result?
Financial confusion will continue to reign.
Consequently, Massillon will continue to muddle along in minimalist mode of governing to meet the needs of its citizens.
The SCPR is highly impressed with "most" of Massillon City Council with Chovan being among those at the top of the list.
Overall, Massillon City Council is the best in all of Stark County.
If council only had a mayor to work with?