The election may be over and many are glad of it, but passions were running high at the Maple Heights City Council the night after the election. Unofficial results can be found in our coverage of the November 4, 2014 General Election.
Residents lit into not only those who voted the cameras out and defeated the levies, but also Maple Schools.
Several Council members, including Alex Adams (District 1) and Richard Trojanski (District 6) made reference to residents “voting against the seniors” by voting against Issue 56. (Issue 56 was defeated by a slim margin of around 50 votes.) A look at the results district by district show that Districts 4, 5 and 6 were in favor of the additional tax for the Senior Center, while Districts 1, 2, 3 and 7 voted against the levy.
The tax levy (Issue 57) for general operations failed by 1300 votes. The money from it could have been available to all city departments, including the Senior Center.
When commenting on the defeat of all new sources of revenue, Mayor Jeffery Lanksy told residents that,
Somebody won and somebody lost…. [those who voted for the traffic camera ban and against the income tax levies] may think they’re winners. They won, but what did they really win? Because you can replace everybody up here next year… and these problems are still going to be here. The revenue isn’t going to come in. That is 3x the residents have voted…it down. They don’t want taxes or fees…. charges or hidden things.
Mayor Lansky claims the residents won nothing. Nonetheless, some would say that the voters won plenty:
- The right to face their accuser in court if they are caught speeding.
- The right to keep more money in their pocket.
- Proof that citizens can band together and make a difference.
- Proof that City Hall is severely out of touch with the residents. (37% government approval rating)
Will residents now get what they have asked for? Not in a spiteful, “this is what you asked for and now we are going to make you regret it” kind of way, but will council sit down and say “this is what we have to work with. What are the necessities? What haven’t we done yet?” Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:
- Directors pay cuts?
- Would mileage reimbursements be cheaper than City provided vehicles?
- What departments can be “self-funded” if a reasonable fee is charged?
- What welfare programs could be run by a non-profit? Could we find individuals, organizations or churches to transition these programs to, so the city can focus on infrastructure, economic development, and crime instead of focusing on the “social” needs of the community.
- We pay for Waste Management to pick up anything we put on the curb…what if residents bag their leaves instead of the city picking them up- or what if the city charged to pick up leaves?
Councilwoman Jones told the “Vote Yes on 99” crowd that they should put their passion towards something “useful”. Apparently their opinions of “useful” differ.
Budget in Light of the November 4, 2014 Election
Each year Council approves the city’s budget, based on the expected revenue. In fact, by law, the city is not allowed to budget more than its projected revenue which is certified by the County. This money is then appropriated between departments for the whole year. No department can go over its appropriations without council approval. Technically, if budgeting was done properly, no department should be in danger of being cut part way through a year because funds are allocated for the whole year at the beginning of the year (unless there is a significant expense increase or revenue loss).
The traffic camera revenue was not included in the original appropriations, but a projection of $1.1 million was included in the amended appropriations passed by Council in July. By that time we’d already had numerous lay-offs and reduced minimum fire fighter staffing levels from 8 to 6 both of which were done to reduce expenses.
Additionally, the revenue from the tax levies would not have been received by the city until 2016. Presumably, the City should have enough money to keep everything running.
We started the year with a $1.8 million deficit. It is not shocking that we’d have problems balancing our budget even after cuts and almost an additional million in revenue from the traffic cameras. According the Financial Recovery Plan, the city’s general fund will first see a positive fund balance at the end of 2016 (page 18). That is without any new revenue sources.
Financial Recovery Plan in Light of the November 4, 2014 Election
There were eight “recovery plan items” in the Financial Recovery Plan. The November 4th election saw 4 of those items defeated, although the city will get to keep the traffic camera revenue from the 4 months the cameras were operational.
Of the remaining 4 recovery plan items, the $100,000 transfer from the rainy day contingency fund was approved by council over the summer. An increase in Health Member Contributions was agreed to by the Fire Department, an estimated savings of $42,000 annually (1g). However, the fire fighters union rejected the Health Care Savings Plan (1f). The police contracts have yet to be negotiated, but both of the previous concessions will be asked of them as well.
The last recovery plan item to be acted on is the $200,000 transfer from the Solid Waste Fund to the General Fund. Councilman Brownlee has challenged that this transfer would be illegal. He claims that, because the money in the Solid Waste Fund is collected through a fee for a specific service, funds cannot be transferred to the General Fund for general expenses.
Council Looks Ahead to 2015’s Budget
City Council has a Committee of the Whole meeting scheduled for Monday, November 17th to discuss final appropriations for 2014 as well as estimated appropriations for 2015. If Council maintains its annual trend, this meeting will see a significant increase in the appropriations to cover expenses that were underestimated earlier in the year.