Fiscal commission to ask for AG ruling


By JORDAN COHEN

news@vindy.com

NILES

The Financial Planning and Supervision Commission will ask the Ohio Attorney General if it can legally approve a new health-care savings plan for Niles City Schools separate from the labor agreements that contain it.

At stake could be savings of at least $500,000 for the district by the end of the year from switching health-care providers, according to an insurance representative. The district’s current plan expires at the end of this month.

“If nothing is done, there are going to be no savings at all,” Michael Zaluski told the commission during a lengthy special meeting Thursday.

Commission members said they need more than verbal projections before voting on anything.

“Where’s the savings? I don’t see that,” said Giovanne Merlo, Niles city auditor and commission member in reference to the district's five-year financial forecast. “The [health care] document should show us the saving” in the forecast.

Merlo is a veteran of fiscal-emergency situations, having gone through one with the city for over four years until its release by the state auditor last month.

The problem the commission has with the health-care package is its inclusion in recently negotiated three-year agreements with union representatives of teachers and nonteaching employees. The contracts are not effective until September even though the health plan must be enacted by May 1.

“The contract has to be approved [by the commission] for health care to be implemented,” said district Treasurer Lori Hudzik.

That poses a problem for the commission, which requires comprehensive documentation about the contracts before it can vote to certify them as required by state law.

“I don’t know that a multiyear contract can be certified [without documentation],” said the panel Chairman Bob Foss.

“If we don’t approve in the interim, we’re going to lose out on an opportunity,” said Barbara Mattei-Smith, commission member representing the Office of Budget and Management.

Instead, the panel tabled action on the district’s health-care plan and agreed to request a ruling from the state attorney general about the legality of voting for package separately from the union contracts. The commission has scheduled another special meeting on the same issue April 29.

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