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Politics is big in these parts, and we’ve got it covered. John Arthur Hutchison and other staff writers will offer their inside information on the events, big news and little moments of the local political scene in Lake, Geauga and eastern Cuyahoga counties.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cities to get less from state Local Government Fund

NEWS FLASH: The State of Ohio is falling on hard economic times.

One of the latest indicators of this is that local governments will receive less money from the state via the Local Government Fund in 2009, according to a Columbus Dispatch report that cited an Ohio Department of Taxation memo.

The memo indicated that earlier estimates of how much money would be available in the fund had to recently be reduced by 6.8 percent, according to the article.

“That 7 percent is accurate,” said Eastlake Mayor Ted Andrzejewski during a recent discussion concerning the clean state audit received by his city.

Due to the LGF reductions, the mayor said Eastlake will lose about $140,000 this year — a figure confirmed by Finance Director Brian Condron.

“That’s two police officers, two firefighters or two city workers,” said Andrzejewski, explaining that when wages, health care, overtime and PERS contributions are all factored together, the cost of such an employee costs the city an average of about $80,000 per year.

In that two-year audit, Eastlake was commended for increasing its general fund carry-over balance by about $700,000 from 2006 to 2007. In doing so, its reserves stretched just over the $4 million mark after being in the $3 million range.

“In today’s environment, $3 million is nothing,” Andrzejewski said. “Our current obligation for employee sick time that has accrued — which has to be paid out when people retire — is over $2 million.”

That mayor’s example of sick time points to the larger issue of having cash on hand to cover things like cuts to the LGF.

“It’s good to have a surplus, but I don’t want people to think we have a bunch of money,” Andrzejewski said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, and we’re going to monitor the first quarter. I’ve asked (department heads) not only to stick to their budgets but to try to come in under budget.”

Though other cities, villages and townships in Lake and Geauga counties will all have unique financial situations, it seems safe to say at this point they’ll all be facing similar budgetary challenges. Local mayors, council members, township trustees, county commissioners and finance departments will likely be measured by how they answer some of these challenges.

-- Michael C. Butz


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