Niles auditor: Finances moving in right direction
By Jordan Cohen
The city’s finances appear to have turned a corner after more than three years of state-declared fiscal emergency.
City Auditor Giovanne Merlo projects a general-fund balance of $1.3 million at the end of this year, a far cry from the negative figures that led to the state’s declaration in October 2014.
It is a significant improvement above the fund’s 2016 year-end balance of $385,000 and well above the $35,000 that remained in 2015.
“Things are moving in the right direction,” Merlo said after city council’s unanimous approval Wednesday of its $71.2 million budget for 2018. The general fund has been budgeted for $11 million.
Merlo said no new positions have been added but vacant slots such as a seasonal part-time parks department employee will be filled.
“There has been no reduction in staffing,” said Barry Steffey, D-4th, finance chairman. Steffey will become council president when swearing-in ceremonies take place Dec. 27.
His predecessor, longtime council President Robert Marino, apparently has a contrary opinion about staffing levels.
“There are some I don’t agree with,” he said during the meeting without disclosing those positions he feels are unnecessary. Marino did not run for re-election.
One point of contention is the fate of the city swimming pool in Waddell Park, unfunded in the 2018 budget. It was closed in 2014 due to the city’s financial situation, which bothers Linda Marchese, D-3rd, who would like to see it reopened.
“I’m hoping things will change,” she said, adding there may be support for her position by some members of next year’s council.
Councilman Steve Papalas, D-at large, thinks otherwise, however.
“It’s a loser [and] too expensive,” he said. “The building is shot, and they should tear the whole thing down.”
Papalas, council’s longest serving member at 38 years, did not run for re-election.
One issue the new council will have to deal with is security. Papalas noted Girard maintains “a metal detector and body scanner,” for its council meetings. There are no similar security precautions for Niles council.
Marino said the city’s municipal court judge has begun investigating the possibility of a grant to fund security measures in the courtroom – the same location where council has its meetings.