Joint Council/Finance Committee Work Session, November 2018

November 30th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Joint City Council/Finance Committee Work Session
Nov. 12, 2018

(Meeting agenda, minutes and presentations are online at City of Shaker Heights website.)

Members Present: Mayor David Weiss; Council members Sean Malone, Nancy Moore, Tres Roeder, Julianna Senturia, Anne Williams, Earl Williams and Robert Zimmerman; citizen members Tom Cicarella, Martin Kolb, Linda Lalley, and Anthony Moore

Others present: Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Finance Director Robert Baker, Assistant Finance Director Cheryl Arslanian, Chief of Police Ed DeMuth, Fire Chief Patrick Sweeney, Law Director William Gruber, Public Works Director Patricia Speese, Building and Housing Director Kyle Krewson, Recreation Director Alexandria Nichols, Information Technology Director Frank Miozzi

The meeting was called to order by Mayor Weiss at 7:02 p.m.

Agenda—Council actions:

Mayor Weiss opened the floor to public comment regarding deer management. Three residents objected to the proposal to hire Precision Wildlife Management to implement the 2019 Deer Management Program. Generally, all three objected to the culling of deer and questioned the process followed by the city’s Deer Task Force. They felt other deer management options had not been objectively investigated and resident comments had not been sufficiently considered.

Anne Williams, who chaired the Deer Task Force, replied to these residents. She stated that residents were invited to comment and hundreds did so. The comments were divergent, with many residents very concerned for the safety of their children and pets. Rob Zimmerman, a member of the task force, said that the residents’ questionnaire was advertised in the mayor’s monthly email report to residents and that approximately 700 comments were received. Mayor Weiss echoed Ms. Williams comment and said the follow-up survey continues to get input; he then asked Ms. Chaikin to place the Deer Task Force meetings on the city calendar. Mr. Zimmerman then added that the Ohio Division of Natural Resources (ODNR) had educated the task force in various deer management options and considerations. Mr. Williams said that this issue is not new for Shaker Heights but that he was dismayed to learn the major impact deer were having on the Nature Center, destroying habitat and food sources for other wildlife. He had heard and discussed many options, and would like to learn of viable alternatives to culling that would remove deer from Shaker—but thus far he has not. Mr. Roeder agreed there were many perspectives in Shaker, but public safety was paramount in his decision to support the proposed deer management program. Council then voted unanimously to approve the proposal.

Mayor Weiss then opened the joint City Council/Finance Committee meeting. He asked the members to limit their comments and discussion in this meeting and to concentrate on the overview presentation, saving the details for the next meeting. All members had previously received copies of the 2019 Budget Book (available on the city’s web site) and he hoped they had been able to study it.

Mr. Baker highlighted what he felt were the major issues for the city in 2019: 1) Operating revenue varied considerably month to month, but his experience indicated it would converge to the proposal by year-end, as it had before. 2) The Police, Fire, Public Works and Recreation departments’ union contracts must be agreed upon in 2019, and preliminary discussions indicated starting points could be much higher than the 2 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) in the proposed budget. 3) Employee health care costs are rising 8.4 percent in 2019. 4) Expenditures not related to personal services constitute 29 percent of operating expenses and are increasing 12.2 percent year/year in the proposed budget.

Ms. Lalley asked why the proposed budget resulted in a $16 million General Fund end-of-year reserve in 2019 rather than adhering to the ordained “20 percent of yearly expenditures” minimum, which would be $10M. Mayor Weiss replied that maintaining a 33 percent reserve in the General Fund positively influenced the city’s credit rating; a 20 percent reserve would significantly increase borrowing costs. He continued that the uncertainty of labor negotiation outcomes would also recommend a conservative reserve goal. Mr. Malone asked about the source of the $1,295,730 operating revenue increase in the table on page 10 of the presentation, which is more than double the $600,000 increase in 2017-2018. Mr. Baker said that $500,000 of the $650,000 difference is the result of property tax reappraisals in 2018; “other taxes,” charges for services and investment income, accounted for the rest. Mr. Cicarella mentioned the talk of recession in the news lately and asked Mr. Baker to comment on the city’s experience during 2008-2009. Mr. Baker answered that the city did not collapse, but experienced a slow decline; the biggest impact occurred in 2011 when Ohio abolished the estate tax. Earl Williams echoed Mr. Baker’s comment on the loss of the estate tax revenue, which concerns him regarding the city’s capital budget. Julianna Senturia asked for an explanation of the 40 percent increase in transfer from the general fund to the recreation fund in 2019. Mr. Baker replied that the city in some years allowed the recreation fund to shrink in value, but stopped in 2018 and will replenish from revenues in 2019.

Ms. Chaikin then began her portion of the 2019 Budget Presentation, sharing the city’s assumptions for the 2019 budget proposal: end each year with an operating surplus, maintain a General Fund reserve of 33 percent, hold all departments’ expenditures to prior-year level, limit growth of base budget (including staffing), continued subsidy of Sewer and Street Lighting Funds, as well as the subsidy for Recreation Fund. She also reminded Council members of the city’s four goals: efficient and cost-effective government, a vibrant commercial and retail development, high-quality and high-functioning neighborhoods, and an attractive and desirable quality of life. Ms. Chaikin then summarized the 2019 base budget impacts, $1,170,000, and one-time impacts, $860,000, with explanations of how each program enabled the achievement of the city’s four goals. She then outlined the next steps of the budgeting process: a Nov. 26 Council meeting combined with a Council/Finance Committee 2019 Capital Budget work session, a Dec. 3 City Council 2019 Operating and 2019 Capital Budget work session, and a Dec. 17 City Council meeting to adopt the 2019 budget ordinances. All meetings are open to the public for comment.

Ms. Senturia asked if there was any action expected this evening and Mr. Weiss answered there was no action expected now, but asked for questions. Anne Williams asked Ms. Chaikin to include more details on some of the larger expense items. Ms. Moore commented the “Sustainability Consultant” cost was not enough for a full-time director—what level of position was planned? Mr. Weiss answered that a part-time consultant would be used in 2019.

Mayor Weiss then invited comments from the public and hearing none, he adjourned the meeting at 9:02 p.m.
Frank Goforth

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