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GIRARD Panel tackles finances



Published: Wed, September 26, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



One of the commission members has served on 19 similar groups.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- It will take two to four years for an oversight commission to restore fiscal integrity to this city, an official said.

The assessment was made by Joe Gray, a member of the state Officer of Budget and Management analysis staff and chairman of the local, seven-member planning and supervision commission.

The commission met for the first time Tuesday to begin laying the groundwork for returning the city to sound financial footing.

Robert L. Delisio of Girard, president and CEO of Landmark Group, was selected as vice chairman.

The commission, by law, was put in place after the city was declared in fiscal emergency Aug. 8 by state Auditor Jim Petro.

City Auditor Sam Zirafi said Tuesday that Girard will end the year $1 million in the red despite cost-cutting measures by the administration.

"We are here to give the city the best advice we can," Gray told other commission members.

Commission member Paul Steiner, of the state treasurer's office, said he has served on 19 other oversight commissions.

Costs: Gray explained that commission costs will be fully paid by the state auditor's office for two years.

The city will pay all costs after three years. Gray said the costs shift to the city in steps as an initiative to get out of fiscal emergency.

The commission will have a number of reports and audits to help it.

Within the next three months, the state auditor's office will submit a report to the commission outlining the city's financial procedures.

Within four months, Mayor James Melfi, a commission member, is required to submit a fiscal recovery plan to the commission. Melfi has said the plan is in the making.

Meanwhile, the state auditor's office will begin conducting a performance audit of city operations next week. This audit will, where feasible, recommend how revenues can be increased and costs reduced.

Nathan Mortimer, assistant senior deputy auditor for the Akron/Canton region, said the performance audit will be expedited and the state's regular audits of the city for 1999 and 2000 will be released in October.

Gray said the commission process is designed to keep its decisions "void of politics."

For example, Gray pointed out, the commission has control over all appropriation measures rather than city council so the city operates within its budget.

The procedures are the same as those used by other oversight commissions to bring several school districts out of fiscal emergency.

yovich@vindy.com




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