The former chairman of the state-appointed fiscal oversight commission that has been operating in the city of Campbell since 2004 was asked in April by Finance Director Sherman Miles if he could get the state auditor’s office to help straighten out the books.
“I told him ‘no,’ I wasn’t gonna pay the state to reconcile the books. That’s his job,” Paul Marshall recalled. Was Marshall just being a smart alec?
Absolutely not. He and other members of the oversight commission have done yeoman work to help Campbell climb out of its financial hole and to now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Indeed, Mayor Bill VanSuch would like ask the state to release the city from state-mandated fiscal emergency by December. But VanSuch knows that so long as the city’s ledgers and the bank statements are not reconciled, his request will fall on deaf ears.
In light of the problems Miles has been having with the task that Marshall said every finance director in the state of Ohio performs as a matter of course, the removal of the fiscal emergency designation may be wishful thinking.
“I don’t think it’s too late,” the mayor said recently. “But he’s [Miles] gonna have to put the time in. He’s got to do what it takes.”
Miles did secure the services of a consultant to show him how to proceed and paid him $40 an hour out of his own pocket. But the consultant is no longer involved.
So, now it’s up to the city’s finance director to bring the books up to date and in line with the bank statements, as required by the state. It does not inspire confidence when Miles admits that he was not taught how to do reconciliations.
Fiscal emergency was declared seven years ago by the state auditor’s office because Campbell’s operating budget was gushing red ink and city officials did not have the ability to turn things around. As a result, the oversight commission has controlled the city’s finances. It has directed expenditures and guided the mayor and council on how to increase revenue. Last year, Campbell was on the verge of economic collapse when residents approved a levy that has stabilized the budget. With this stabilization has come the notion that the city could get out of fiscal emergency by December.
But even if the state auditor’s office approves the five-year budget projections that show revenues and expenditures being in balance each year, officials in Columbus will have to be convinced that Campbell city government has the ability and expertise to prevent another financial collapse.
So when the finance director admits that he does not have the expertise to reconcile the city’s books with the bank statements and acknowledges that his predecessor also did not perform this task adequately, the question that will be asked by state officials is this: Can Campbell city government be trusted to manage its finances properly? It will be up to Miles, Mayor VanSuch and others to prove that they have the ability to keep Campbell on the right track.