Miller, Gallitto must work to solve Boardman’s crisis

With Boardman Township on the verge of being placed under fiscal watch by the state auditor, continuity on the board of trustees makes sense. This is not to say that Kathy Miller and Robyn Gallitto, who are seeking re-election this year, are the only ones on the ballot qualified to serve. But they do have one thing going for them that none of the others do: An intimate knowledge of the township’s budget.

And, given that a declaration of fiscal watch will require the board of trustees to develop a fiscal recovery plan acceptable to the state, Miller, Gallitto and their colleague, Larry Moliterno, who is not up for re-election this year, should be in a position to respond quickly.

Other than Thomas Costello, who lost his seat four years ago, the other candidates would need time to familiarize themselves with the operation of Boardman government. But government doesn’t have the luxury of time.

The two incumbents and three of the five challengers, Costello, Brad Calhoun and Gary Rosati, appeared before members of The Vindicator’s editorial board and a reporter as part of the endorsement process.

We were looking for a strong case to be made against the re-election of Miller and Gallitto, but none of the challengers rose to the occasion. To be sure, they each offered opinions about the budget and the reason for the township’s fiscal crisis, but weren’t able to provide solutions that were different from anything the incumbents have proposed.

There are two ways of looking at the race this year: One, Miller and Gallitto should be held responsible for Boardman’s collapse and, therefore, should be replaced; two, the incumbents should be made to stay on and help guide the township through these dark days. It’s easy to govern when things are going swimmingly. It’s a challenge when nothing seems to be working.

Action plan

Miller and Gallitto should have the chance to show they are up to the challenge. In addition, they, along with Moliterno, must have to face residents when the state auditor’s office issues the fiscal watch declaration and details the steps trustees must take to reverse the course.

Since more 80 percent of the operating budget goes toward employees’ salaries and benefits, any cost-cutting program will have to focus on slashing the compensation packages or reducing the payroll. They have already taken some steps toward that end and toward reining in costs that have ballooned over the years.

Even if state auditors suggest that the trustees seek an operating levy, the reality is that the residents of Boardman are in no mood to give government any more money. A year ago, they passed a levy for the police and fire departments with the understanding that police officers would be hired to bring the force up to acceptable levels and that firefighters on layoff would be called back.

But the national economic recession caused Boardman, like other communities in the Mahon–ing Valley, to reassess its spending priorities.

If this editorial appears cautious, it’s because we aren’t sure anyone has the answers for what ails Boardman. We just hope that Miller, Gallitto and Moliterno are able to provide the leadership necessary to get employees to sign on to the cost-cutting measures that will become necessary.

We also urge them to establish a close working relationship with the township’s fiscal officer, William Leicht, so they have confidence in the financial data and revenue projections he provides.

Finally, the trustees should objectively evaluate the performance of Administrator Jason Loree and ponder whether someone with greater experience and knowledge of township government is needed during this challenging time.

The Vindicator endorses Miller and Gallitto for re-election — with the admonition that they set aside whatever personal animus may exist and keep their focus on the township’s bottom line.

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