Observer Reports

City Council Special Meeting, Jan. 14, 2019

January 27th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

This was an abbreviated meeting, as the main order was the swearing in of Mayor David Weiss, who won the November election after being appointed as mayor last spring. The mayor and all Council members were present.

Welcome and introductions were made by Anne Williams, vice mayor. Municipal Judge K.J. Montgomery administered the oath of office to Mayor Weiss. He made a few short comments.

Mayor Weiss appointed Council member Julianna Johnston Senturia to chair the new Sustainable Committee—approved. Mayor Weiss reappointed Council member Sean Malone to continue as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Shaker Heights Development Corp.—approved. Mayor Weiss reappointed Ronald Reed and Clifford Brown to the Landmark Commission for a three-year term expiring 12/31/21—approved. After this, the mayor specifically called out Jan Deveraux, who is retiring from the Landmarks Commission. He lauded her for her work for many years and her service to the city.

Mayor Weiss then reappointed Robert Sullivan and Marc Cicarelli to the Architectural Board of Review for a three-year term expiring 12/31/21—approved.

Finally, Council renewed the Master Services Agreement with Interstate Gas Supply for provision of natural gas services for the city’s Natural Gas Aggregation program for the period 4/1/19 through 3/31/21—approved.

The meeting lasted about 45 minutes and adjourned for punch and cookies.

Mary Lavigne-Butler

Board of Education, January 2019

January 24th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Jan. 9, 2019

Present: Board President Jeffrey Isaacs and board members William L. Clawson, Lisa Cremer, Ayesha Bell Hardaway, and Heather Weingart; Interim Superintendent Dr. Stephen Wilkins; Treasurer Bryan Christman

The meeting was called to order by Board President Jeffrey Isaacs at 6:02 p.m. The agenda may be found here.

  • Carina Freeman, Lomond Elementary School Principal, introduced students four students who each gave a welcome presentation.
  • Mr. Isaacs introduced 19 required annual organizational items for approval, all approved unanimously. Two items of particular note:
    • Nomination and election of the board president for 2019; Lisa Cremer nominated Jeff Isaacs, who accepted the nomination and was reelected.
    • Nomination and election of the board vice president for 2019; Ayesha Bell Hardaway nominated Heather Weingart, who accepted the nomination and was elected vice president.
  • The board approved the minutes of the Dec. 11, 2018, regular meeting and the Dec. 19, 2018, special meeting.
  • Mr. Isaacs next invited the public to share comments. He advised the audience that the usual 30-minute allotted for comments would be observed, reminding everyone to respect a 3-minute limit. All speakers did limit their comments and all were able to have their voice.
    • Sylvester Moore of Norwood Road requested that the board exercise a preference for Shaker Heights alumni or residents in their choice of interim principal of the high school.
    • William Scanlon of Shaker Boulevard (and a Shaker Heights Teachers Association officer) expressed his disappointment that the board had resorted to arbitration regarding high school English teacher Jody Podl.
  • Dr. Wilkins acknowledged staff and students for special recognition and honors:
    • Seventy-six student works received awards in the Scholastic Art Competition; the list of the winners and their work may be found at Shaker Art Student Awards.
    • Lomond School’s First Lego League Jr. teams took attendees of its first STEM Expo on a “Mission to the Moon” while showcasing their robotics and research projects.
    • Students in the Multiple Disabilities Program at the high school served a chili lunch to raise money for their spring visits to Fieldstone Therapeutic Horseback Riding Center.
    • Freshmen Katy Christian and Ben Schattinger won the Build Award at the Akron VEX Robotics Competition Dec. 15 at Firestone High School in Akron. View a video of the competition.
    • Fernway fourth graders attended two Naturalization Ceremonies at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Cleveland. The students helped welcome 130 new American citizens from more than 20 countries. PTO liaison Dorothy Moulthrop helped to organize it.
    • The Woodbury Fiddle Factory and Middle School Orchestra traveled to the Cleveland Clinic on Dec. 19 for an outreach performance in the Karos Grand Lobby.
    • IB Diploma candidate Abigail Beard was named as a secondary author in the Nov. 22, 2018, issue of the scientific journal Oncogene for her research that contributed to the article, “The lncRNA BORG facilitates the survival and chemo-resistance of triple-negative breast cancers.”
    • Freshman Ryan Shane competed for a spot on the U.S. Junior World Cup team at the U.S. Short Track Junior Championship in Wausau, Wis., Dec. 15-16.
    • Finally, congratulations to senior Lyle Yost for his strong finishes at the USA Diving Winter Trials in Atlanta Dec. 16-21.
  • David Boyer, Director of Operations, next presented an update on the Fernway School building restoration project, the district capital plan, and summer construction projects. The Fernway project is progressing, with interior demolition mostly done and refinements to plans ready for submission to get a final price estimate next month.
  • Mr. Christman introduced the district personnel items requiring approval. All personnel items were approved.
  • Dr. Wilkins said that the search for a new football coach was progressing. The original pool of 50 applicants had been narrowed to 15 prospects, including seven Shaker grads, who have completed their initial interviews. The second round of interviews would commence Jan. 14. 
  • Don Readance, high school athletic director, and Tim Richards, middle school athletic director, presented a recommendation for Shaker Schools to leave the Greater Cleveland Conference (GCC) and rejoin the Lake Erie League (LEL) beginning in the 2020-2021 school year. The recommendation was approved.

This presentation provoked many questions from all Board members. The questions regarded:

  • Parity of participation in all sports and gender among the LEL member schools, particularly for less popular sports such as lacrosse, golf, rowing, etc.
  • Students’ schedules and time commitment for practice and competitions
  • Quality of competition, particularly in regard to student’s ability to attract college scholarships
  • Ability of coaches to schedule competitions with non-LEL schools
  • Impact on the school bands

The following two business items were approved unanimously: a resolution approving the change order with Chagrin Valley Paving for the high school’s south parking lot and Onaway’s parking lot improvements, and a resolution approving the change order with TAP Construction for the Mercer waterline replacement. The change orders reduced expenses by $43,460.

The board held a second of three required readings of 28 proposed or revised board policies; a vote is required at the Feb. 12, 2019, meeting.

The board held a public review of the proposed school calendars for the 2019-2020, 2020-2021, and 2021-2022 school years in accordance with Ohio law so as to address the required topics that include, but are not limited to, the total number of hours in a school year, length of school day, and beginning and ending dates of instruction. Dr. Marla Robinson explained the process the administration had implemented to survey stakeholders; approximately 600 people had responded to the survey and a common comment was a desire to hold high school exams prior to winter break. However, Ohio requirements would then necessitate an academic year starting date two weeks earlier. There were no public comments at the meeting. The proposed calendars will be brought to a vote at the Feb. 12.

The board approved Mr. Christman’s monthly financial report. He offered a summary:

The revenue activity for the month and for the fiscal year-to-date (to December 2018) has been similar to the same reporting period for the prior year with the following exceptions:

  1. Real estate tax revenue received in 2018 year-to-date was $2.8 million less than in 2017 due to timing in amounts paid out by the county in 2017 in advance of the Jan. 1, 2018, federal income tax law changes limiting state and local tax deductions.
  2. The first Shaker Plaza Tax Increment Financing payment of $386,036, including a catch-up payment for part of 2017, was received in September.
  3. Investment earnings were $237,251, or 53.8 percent ahead of 2017.
  4. Other local revenue was $1.9 million, or 71.7 percent less than 2017, due primarily to the non-recurring receipt in the 2017 fiscal year of a $1.7 million reimbursement for the middle school roof project from the bond issuance fund. Additionally, the district received $332,736 less in receipts from the state for Fiscal Year 2018 State Foundation payments as compared to the same time period in 2017.
  5. The district is expected to receive approximately the same State Foundation funding in Fiscal 2019 as in Fiscal 2018 due to being on the “guarantee” funding method.

The expenditure activity for the fiscal year-to-date was $0.9 million, or 1.9 percent less than the 2017 amount, due to timing differences in payments, expected growth in certain expenses (primarily salaries and fringe benefits), offset by a reduction in capital outlay expenditures. In summary, the district’s overall finances are on target with expectations at this time. The board approved the financial statement.

The board approved Mr. Christman’s proposed 2019-2020 Tax Budget, which must be submitted to the County Budget Commission. He offered a summary: The Tax Budget contains three basic fiscal year 2019-2020 tax request figures (including homestead and rollback monies):

General Fund $79,422,000

Bond Retirement Fund $ 3,646,000

Permanent Improvement Fund $ 1,027,000

These amounts mirror the district’s five-year forecast.

The regular superintendent’s report was deferred until the board’s executive session due to the private personnel items requiring discussion.

The board adjourned the public session at 7:59 p.m.

Frank Goforth

Planning/Zoning, January 2019

January 24th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Jan. 8, 2019

Members Present: David Weiss, mayor and chair; Councilman Rob Zimmerman; citizen members John Boyle, Kevin Dreyfuss-Wells, Joanna Ganning

Others Present: Joyce Braverman, Director of Planning; Dan Feinstein, Senior Planner; William Gruber, Director of Law

Mayor Weiss called the meeting to order at 7 p.m. The agenda for this meeting and supporting documents may be found here.

The minutes of the Dec. 4, 2018, meeting were approved. 

FERNWAY SCHOOL – 17420 FERNWAY ROAD
Supporting Documents: 17420 Fernway

The City Planning Commission reviewed a proposal to renovate the fire-damaged school, including replacing the roof, adding a two-story addition to include additional classroom space and an elevator; a one-story rear addition off the gymnasium for storage space; and a second-floor infill addition for a library and other resource rooms. Presented by Chris Dewey, Van Auken Akins Architects, on behalf of the Shaker Heights School District, the plan represents only the building, not all the planned site work as it may change due to fundraising efforts. The Phase 2 overview (full plan to be presented at a later date) includes a larger lawn area, additional parking, and a drop-off zone. There were no public comments. The plan was approved.

GILLESPIE RESIDENCE – 2920 DRUMMOND ROAD
Supporting Documents: 2920 Drummond

Chris Kontur, CPK Construction, on behalf of Robert and Beth Gillespie, requested a rear-yard setback variance to add a two-car garage so the existing garage could be converted to living space. The new garage has a 26-foot 8-inch set-back, while code requires 40 feet. It was noted that many garages in the neighborhood already have set-back variances, and the homeowner’s affected neighbor has no objection. Staff supports the variance. There were no public comments. The variance was approved.

BLASZAK RESIDENCE – 20975 CLAYTHORNE ROAD
Supporting Documents: 20975 Claythorne

Michael Beightol, Exscape Designs, on behalf of Rick and Kate Blaszak, requested a variance to pool regulations. Regulations require 4 feet of decking on each side of the pool. The resident requests a variance to 30 inches on two of the sides, one with additional shrubs, one with pavers in the lawn. There were no public comments. The variance was approved.

B-1 BUILDING – VAN AKEN DISTRICT
Supporting Documents: 3396 Tuttle

Brian Meng, Bialosky Cleveland, representing RMS Investments, requested a variance in the commercial zoning design standards to change the entryway on the east end of the building to be accessible to but not facing Farnsleigh, per the original standards. The change is needed because the tenancy of the eastern half of the building has changed. The corner entry is now the primary customer entry of the second-floor tenant and does not access the first-floor tenant. The proposed door accesses only an elevator and stairway to the second floor. The primary entrance for the first-floor tenant (Green House Tavern) will remain on the façade facing into the District and will be easily accessible from both Farnsleigh and Tuttle roads. The representative also sought variance for a similar change to the west end of the building, anticipating a similar tenancy situation.

 

Mr. Boyle expressed considerable disappointment that the entry would not face the main street (Farnsleigh) which was counter to the zoning ideal of creating a welcoming face to the main street. Mr. Meng responded that the entryway would have a strong canopy and visual branding impact, and the positioning would also be more visible to people passing through the Van Aken District on Tuttle Road or shopping in other areas of the District. It was also noted that the doorway would serve patrons and wait staff using the patio seating of the first-floor restaurant tenant. There were no public comments.

The variance request for the east end of the building was approved. The request for the west end of the building was withdrawn.

LEE ROAD LEARNING CENTER – 3663 LEE ROAD:
Supporting Documents: 3663 Lee

This was a continuation of the hearing for Donqualla Hale-Peterson, Lee Road Learning Center, requesting a parking variance to open a child daycare center. It was continued for the applicant to address parking and playground issues. Code requires 10 parking spaces, and the applicant proposed sharing spaces with nearby businesses but didn’t have a written agreement. In addition, the facility has a dumpster with a 6-foot wooden enclosure, while code requires a brick fence. Another topic of discussion had been that the new center would not have an onsite playground, which is required by the state, though use of nearby playgrounds at other daycare centers owned by Ms. Hale-Peterson would meet the standards.

Ms. Hale-Peterson reviewed the situation, and also explained that a shared-parking agreement had been reached with the neighboring businesses, though they hadn’t yet signed the official agreement. It was noted that other businesses in the area have wooden dumpster enclosures.

Mr. Boyle expressed concern that the center may be in violation of state rules concerning the lack of an onsite outdoor play space. His interpretation of the statute is that if there isn’t outdoor space, the center may use nearby outdoor space but must also have an indoor space. When the required play-space footage is added to the minimum required per student space, the current building is not large enough. Mr. Gruber reviewed the rule during the session and tentatively agreed with Mr. Boyle’s interpretation. A representative of the Center responded that her understanding was that either access to a nearby play area or an indoor play area met state requirements. Mr. Gruber said he needed to do a closer reading of the rules and research.

The public hearing was opened. Nick Fedor of the Shaker Heights Development Corp. spoke against the variance because there is already a lack of parking in the Lee Road business zone. Lawrence Crump, who owns the barbershop next to the Center, confirmed that he had reached a verbal agreement to share parking because their customer busy times do not overlap and stays are of short duration. Craig Stout, who owns businesses on Lee Road, objected to the Center because the district already has a number of daycare centers and needs more diversity of businesses. Mayor Weiss read an email from Tommy Farmer, another Lee Road businessperson, who objected. Willie Peterson, wife of the owner, noted that there are a number of empty buildings on Lee Road and plenty of room for other kinds of businesses to move in.

The board decided to continue the hearing, allowing time to clarify state rules about onsite indoor play areas if there is no onsite outdoor play area and to create a written full parking plan.

MASTER MARR’S TAEKWON-DO – 16720 CHAGRIN BLVD.
Supporting Documents: 16720 Chagrin

James Marr, Master Marr’s Taekwon-do, 16720 Chagrin Blvd., requested a Conditional Use Permit for a specialized instructional school and a variance to parking requirements. The applicant wishes to relocate the existing studio to a retail space three buildings to the east. A parking variance is required since code requires 50 parking spaces.They currently have four on-street parking spaces plus a shared public parking lot of 123 spaces behind the building. 

During the public comment session, Nick Fedor, of the Shaker Heights Development Corp., spoke in favor of approval. The measure was approved.

SHAKER LAKES NATURE CENTER – 2600 SOUTH PARK BLVD.
Supporting Documents: 2600 South Park

Jodi McCue, Environmental Design Group, on behalf of the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, requested approval for improvements to the All People’s Trail. The new trail is essentially the same layout and includes the wood boardwalk and a trailhead feature, as well as a pergola and gazebo on the boardwalk platform. A height variance is required for the gazebo, which will be 16 feet tall, 1 foot above the code maximum of 15 foot. Staff approved the request.

Mr. Gruber asked what role Cleveland Heights has in the approval, since the Center is on the border of the two cities. Mr. Feinstein clarified that Cleveland Heights wants Shaker to approve the building; they will review signage. Mr. Boyle asked if the changes would improve access for those with disabilities; applicant responded yes. There were no public comments. The request was approved.

The meeting was adjourned. The next meeting will be Feb. 5.

Lynn Lilly

Safety & Public Works Committee, January 2019

January 9th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Jan. 4, 2019

Present: Council members Nancy Moore (chair), Juliana Senturia, Anne Williams; citizen members James Brady, Jonathan Hren, James Sammon, Austin McGuan

Others present: Mayor David Weiss; Director of Public Works Patricia Speese; Director of Planning Joyce Braverman; Chief of Fire Patrick Sweeney; Chief of Police Jeffrey DeMuth; police department administrative assistant Debra Messing

The meeting was called to order by Ms. Moore at 8 a.m.

Agenda—Committee actions:

1.  The minutes of the Dec. 7, 2019, meeting were approved without further discussion.

2.  The Planning Department presented a motion to add $3,750 for a total of $35,030 on a contract with Weber Murphy Fox (WMF) signed in July 2018 after a competitive RFP process to study renovations to the old fire department space in a wing of City Hall. The change order is covered by the 2019 capital budget. The fire department relocated to a new building on Chagrin Boulevard in 2005. Its prior space off City Hall was already in poor condition and has deteriorated. The city wants to consolidate the housing and building departments into a first-floor space more convenient to its frequent visitors.

WMF’s first phase of planning and cost estimates showed that the proposed budget of $450,000 would be inadequate. WMF will propose a two-year phased plan to renovate both floors of the space, with the first phase to fall within the original budget estimate. Ms. Braverman described the renovations to move walls, remediate asbestos and mold, and fix utilities as “minimal.” Ms. Moore said there was extensive water damage because of a leak in the roof. Ms. Senturia expressed surprise that the final cost may be closer to $1 million. Mayor Weiss pointed out that the cost would be amortized over the 50-year projected lifespan of the renovations. The motion passed unanimously.

3. The Public Works Department presented a motion for approval to seek a $5,000 zero-match grant from the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District for creation of public education materials regarding recycling. Discussion highlighted changes in the recyclables market and difficulties with finding destinations and processors for recycled materials, resulting in extremely limited options for disposing of potential recyclables. Specifications for what can still be recycled are complicated, thus the city wants to create educational materials for distribution to residents. Ms. Senturia suggested the city remind residents they can still “reduce and reuse,” as recycling options are increasingly limited. Ms. Speese said the city had for a time earned about $50,000 for recycling; now it is earning under $9,000, with corresponding additional costs for garbage. The motion passed unanimously.

4. Following discussion on the motions on the agenda, each department director provided an informal update. Police Chief DeMuth said, “We’ve never been safer here in Shaker Heights” because the crime rate for 2018 was almost as low as the historically low 2017 rate, including traffic accidents. Fire Chief Sweeney mentioned the planned distribution of smoke detectors. Ms. Speese described a shortage of skilled applicants and competition for labor with the expanding Amazon delivery service.

Mr. McGuan asked about Facebook chatter about gunfire and property damage on New Year’s Eve. Chief DeMuth said there was some property damage, but no evidence the gunfire occurred within city limits. He said other suburbs also experienced celebratory gunfire that night. In undated anecdotes, Ms. Senturia said her neighbor’s window was damaged by a bullet hole and Mr. Brady said a roofer at his home found several slugs had pierced his slate roof tiles. (Both of these individuals reside close to Shaker’s border with Cleveland.) Ms. Moore said the city had rescinded its gun control ordinances because of state laws as well as threats of litigation.

Ms. Braverman and Mayor Weiss described a long-term plan to renovate Lee Road “from border to border,” including utilities under the road and creation of a center turn lane. A grant application is pending for 2021 funding.

Ms. Moore adjourned the meeting at 8:50 a.m.

Annette Tucker Sutherland

Board of Education, December 2018

January 6th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Education
Dec. 11, 2018

Present: Board President Jeffrey Isaacs and members Bill Clawson, Lisa Cremer, Ayesha Hardaway, and Heather Weingart; Interim Superintendent Dr. Stephen Wilkins and Treasurer Bryan Christman

Mr. Isaacs called the meeting to order at 6 p.m. and asked for a moment of silence in memory of Woodbury Teacher Aisha Fraser.

The Board approved the minutes of the November board meeting.

  • Public comments: one person expressed concern about board communications; Lisa Vahey spoke about the Equity Task Force; and William Scanlon of the Shaker Heights Teachers Association said the union is setting up a trust for Aisha Fraser’s daughters. Mr. Scanlon, a teacher at the high school, also said the high school community needs to heal after the problems it faced last fall. Boulevard Principal Neal Robinson and a Boulevard student talked about what has been happening at the school.
  • Dr. Wilkins reported on the following: Onaway/Fernway students are participating in Fostering Hope, a Cleveland nonprofit that enriches the lives of children in foster care.  Lomond students will host a STEM Expo called Mission Moon thanks to the support from the Shaker Schools Foundation and Rockwell Automation for the after-school program FIRST LEGO League Jr.  Four seniors have signed letters of intent for college athletics. The cast of “Pippin” has been invited by the Board of Directors of the Ohio Educational Theatre Association to perform at a state conference – a first for Shaker students. The Middle School Robotics Club (in its third year) qualified for the state competition; Onaway’s principal Lomond’s assistant principal traveled to China in early November with the Chinese Bridge Delegations for American Principals sponsored by the College Board and the Confucius Institute. In early December, Dr. Wilkins also traveled to China with high school teacher Raina Li, and 2018 graduate Ose Arheghan represented the district at the 13th Confucious Institute Conference.
  • Shaker Schools Foundation Executive Director Holly Coughlin addressed the board regarding the imminent kickoff of the Fernway Forward Capital Campaign to raise up to $500,000 for Fernway School. Funds raised are earmarked for “extras,” including outdoor community spaces and play areas; a media center and design spaces; occupational therapy rooms; art and music rooms; and cafeteria/community space.
  • Director of Operations Dave Boyer and and a representative of Van Auken Akins Architects provided an update on the district capital plan and summer construction programs. Their handout reviewed costs and a timeline for the numerous projects.
  • An Instructional Technology update by John Rizzo, Director of Technology and Media Services, and team member Casey Aliff reviewed the K-4 Chromebook rollout project. Previously, a traditional classroom had two or three hardwired computers on desks plus a teacher’s desktop, and classes would travel to a central computer lab with 25-30 computers.  Now, for grades K-3, there will be 12 Chromebooks per classroom, so a 2:1 ratio plus a swing cart of 15 more to allow for 1:1 in a classroom.  For grade 4, there will be 24 Chromebooks in each classroom. All elementary computer labs have been phased out except for one at Lomond, and 328 desktop computers district-wide have been phased out. Next year, consideration is being given to having MS/HS students take a Chromebook home – the district will first work on how to make sure students have safe access to the internet and adult supervision. Note that these Chromebooks have a five-year life and are built for educational environments.
  • School enrollment update: Chris Rateno, Director of Student Data, presented an update on local, state, and national student enrollment trends. Lower birth rates will yield fewer kindergarten students. Cuyahoga County is showing a larger decline than Ohio’s average due to economic factors and the fact that it is an aging area. Shaker is estimated to be down 63 students per year (K-12), which matches the national and state decline.
  • All personnel updates and changes were approved.
  • Terri Breeden, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, gave a brief update and a proposal on staffing: Presently there are four elementary teaching positions that were not filled for the 2018-2019 school year. In looking at the declining enrollment trends, these positions will be abolished.
  • The following business item was approved: additional work on the Mercer waterline replacement.
  • The board had the first of three readings on 28 new proposed changes to board policies. Several of the board members made comments on various proposals and most suggestions were added to the proposals.
  • The board approved the day before Christmas and New Year’s off for all employees.
  • Treasurer’s report: Financially, the end of November showed a $235,000 favorable variance.
  • The district is converting its fiscal systems from USAS to Sungard with a target ‘go-live’ date of July 1, 2019. A training and conversion schedule has been set up.
  • There was a 69 percent passing rate for Ohio school district levies on the November ballot.
  • Mr. Christman also reported on Ohio House Bill 343 , which limits complaints of tax adjustment filings against a residential property.
  • The East Cleveland school district is in academic distress and the State Department of Education will be having its first meeting regarding that soon.
  • The board renewed its Medical Mutual of Ohio Medical and Hospital Services agreement and self-insured rates effective Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2019, and the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Dental Service Agreement. It also approved the Express Scripts prescription drug self-insured rates.
  • Mr. Isaacs gave a brief update on the status of the superintendent search: 30 meetings/focus groups have been scheduled, and 571 people completed an online survey on preferred characteristics of potential candidates.

The Board adjourned the public session at 8:14 p.m.
Holly Wang

City Council, Dec. 17, 2018

December 24th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

City Council Regular Meeting
Dec. 17, 2018

The numbering of items in this report corresponds to the item numbering of the meeting agenda. (Meeting agenda, minutes and presentations are available online at City of Shaker Heights website.)

 

Present: Mayor David Weiss; Council members Sean Malone, Nancy Moore, Tres Roeder, Julianna Johnston Senturia, Anne Williams, Earl Williams Jr., and Robert Zimmerman; Finance Committee citizen members Martin Kolb and Anthony Moore

Others present: Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Law Director William Gruber, Finance Director Robert Baker, Chief of Police Ed DeMuth, Fire Chief Patrick Sweeney, Public Works Director Patricia Speese, Planning Director Joyce Braverman, Recreation Director Alexandria Nichols, Information Technology Director Frank Miozzi, Human Resources Manager Sandra Middleton

The meeting was called to order by Mayor Weiss at 7:05 p.m.

Agenda—Council actions:

  1. The minutes of the Nov. 12 and Nov. 26, 2018, regular meetings were approved.
  2. Mr. Gruber recommended that Council confirm the mayor’s reappointments of Board of Appeals members Arun Kottha, Joseph MacDonald, Nancy Moore, and Earl Williams to new two-year terms beginning Jan. 1. The recommendation was approved.
  3. Ms. Braverman recommended that Council confirm the mayor’s reappointment of Architectural Board of Review member Sandra Madison to a new three-year term beginning Jan. 1. The recommendation was approved.
  4. Ms. Braverman also recommended that Council confirm the mayor’s reappointment of Board of Zoning Appeals/City Planning Commission member John J. Boyle III to a new six-year term beginning Jan. 1. The recommendation was approved.

Mayor Weiss then opened the floor for public comment regarding any of the agenda items. One resident came forward to express concern regarding agenda Item 10, the granting of a conditional use permit for the Loving Cup Academy daycare at 16500 Chagrin Blvd. The resident was concerned about the safety of children entering the daycare facility due to tow truck traffic approaching the adjacent post office vehicle repair facility.

  1. Ms. Middleton presented a recommendation authorizing a contract with McGowan Insurance for property and casualty insurance in the amount of $341,384 for the year 2019. This coverage includes automobile, general liability, property, public officials, law enforcement, fire department liability, employment practices, boiler and machinery, money and securities, computer and valuable papers, to name a few. A Request for Proposals was sent to four agencies that have specialized experience insuring public sector clients; only McGowan Governmental Underwriters, the incumbent agent, provided a proposal, with a 6 percent increase. The overriding reason given for the agent/markets withdrawal from the process was the state of the city’s dams on Doan Brook.

Mr. Malone commented that the Finance Committee had tasked an ad-hoc group to consider the lack of response to this request for proposals. Their judgment was the bid was in line with market costs with the improved coverage and that the situation would improve after all repairs were completed to city dams on Doan Brook. Mr. Roeder wondered what was needed to get better proposal response in the future. He also asked if small claims were now being tracked. Mr. Williams asked if other cities in the area with similar liabilities would work together to get more quotes. The city’s consultant, Daniel O’Brien, was present and told Council that recent flood loss claims nationwide due to hurricanes and other abnormal rain incidents had generally increased the aversion of insurance underwriters to cities with dams. The recommendation was approved.

  1. Mr. Gruber requested that Council adopt corrections on first reading and as an emergency in order to ensure the accuracy of Ordinance 17-91, which was enacted by Council on Nov. 13, 2017, and amended numerous sections of the Administrative and Health Codes of the City. The request was approved.
  2. Mr. Gruber requested that Council adopt corrections on first reading and as an emergency in order to ensure the accuracy of Ordinance 17-92, which was enacted by Council on Nov. 13, 2017, and amended numerous sections of the Administrative, Fire, Building and Housing Codes of the City. The request was approved.
  3. Mr. Gruber recommended that Council approve revisions to the city’s ordinances to ensure that certain sections of the ordinances are consistent and not in conflict with state law; to facilitate the administration of justice and the daily operation of various city departments; and to avoid practical and legal entanglements. It is recommended that these amendments be adopted on first reading and as an emergency to allow the prompt republication of the city’s ordinances with the updates, and to allow the city’s ordinances to come into consistency with state law as soon as possible. The recommendation was approved.
  4. Ms. Braverman requested that Council extend the moratorium on accepting applications for approval of Type A Day Care Homes for an additional 90 days to allow more time for the administration, Planning Commission, and Council to decide how to regulate Type A in-home day care operations going forward. On Oct. 9 this year, Council enacted a moratorium to prohibit the city from accepting applications for approval of Type A Day Care Homes for 90 days to enable Council to review current regulations and decide what is in the best interests of the community in the future. The moratorium went into effect on Oct. 10, 2018, when the resolution was signed by Mayor Weiss. Thus, the moratorium expires on Jan. 8, 2019. Mr. Williams asked if the Planning Commission was prohibited from considering new Type A Day Care applications during the moratorium. Ms. Braverman confirmed no new applications are considered during the moratorium. The request was approved, continuing the moratorium into early April.
  5. Ms. Braverman requested that Council approve a revised Conditional Use Permit for Loving Cup Academy, an existing childcare center at 16500 Chagrin Boulevard and that this ordinance be passed on first reading in order for renovation of the space to commence. Loving Cup Academy proposes to expand into adjacent commercial space in the building to accommodate additional before- and after-school care for children at this existing daycare center. The existing daycare use was conditionally approved in April 2004 with parking, access, and drop-off improvements required in the interior courtyard. An expansion of the daycare use into the same adjacent commercial space in the building was previously approved in 2006 for a different operator, but was not utilized by the current operator.

Mr. Zimmerman asked about the public comment regarding the safety of children during drop-off and pick-up in the courtyard. Ms. Braverman explained that the post office repair facility adjacent to the daycare center shared an access road with the daycare courtyard entrance, but did not share the courtyard parking area; in fact, post office vehicles are prohibited from entering the courtyard. Mr. Zimmerman asked if this affected the daycare’s conditional use permit. Ms. Braverman replied that maybe it did. Mr. Zimmerman asked if anything had changed since the conditional use permit was first allowed for the previous operator. Ms. Braverman answered it had not. Mayor Weiss said that the permit request is for the present operator. Mr. Malone asked if conditions could be added for approval. Ms. Braverman replied that conditions could be added and Mr. Malone recommended some safety conditions be added. Mr. Weiss remarked that added safety measures might best be achieved by changes in the access road. Mr. Roeder expressed concern about passing this on first reading without study. Ms. Braverman said that the post office facility provisional use could be revoked or Council could force compliance by post office vehicles. Mr. Williams asked that Council be advised of any discussion with the post office. Mr. Weiss reminded everyone that post office vehicles were not entering the courtyard and were in compliance, that the post office’s use of the access road did not affect the conditional use permit under consideration, and that the daycare operators were not the offenders. Mr. Zimmerman offered that he would approve with some stipulations. Mr. Roeder agreed with Mr. Zimmerman about stipulations. Ms. Senturia said that the daycare operators had considered child safety in the permit request by staging drop-off and pickup in the courtyard. Ms. Williams asked how long had a daycare been in operation in the location. Ms. Braverman said more than 20 years.Mr. Roeder shared that he is aware of the particular traffic area as he works nearby and it is worthy of further consideration. Mr. Zimmerman would like more study, for his personal comfort, but he would withdraw his motion with stipulations in order to have a vote. The request was approved with Mr. Roeder and Mr. Zimmerman voting no.

  1. Ms. Speese presented a recommendation to approve and authorize the execution of a Community Cost Share Agreement with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) in the amount not-to-exceed $50,000 for the Fairhill combined sewer overflow (CSO). NEORSD notified Public Works that the outlet pipe for the Fairhill CSO had significantly deteriorated. The outlet pipe, located north of the Fairhill and Kemper roads intersection, discharges into Doan Brook and is owned by the city. NEORSD proposed a cost share for this replacement, since district flow is conveyed through the CSO during wet weather events. They are agreeable to paying 50 percent of the cost with a not-to-exceed $50,000. The recommendation was approved.
  2. Ms. Speese next presented a recommendation to accept a proposal and authorize a contract with GPD Group for design services for the Avalon and Strathavon Road Waterline Project in the amount of $53,622. Public Works applied for and received funding from Cleveland Water Suburban Water Main Renewal program to replace the water mains on Avalon Road (Fernway Road to Van Aken Boulevard) and Strathavon Road (Lomond Boulevard to Scottsdale Road). Cleveland Water Department (CWD) has agreed to pay for this project on the condition that Shaker Heights design and manage the project. CWD will pay the city the total costs of the design and construction. The recommendation was approved.
  3. Ms. Chaikin presented a recommendation to approve and authorize a contract with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) in the amount of $135,033 for 2019 and $155,041 for 2020, to handle health permitting, licensing, and enforcement under Ohio law, and to provide various health-related services to the city’s residents. Ohio adopted a requirement that all city health departments become accredited by the federal Public Health Accreditation Board by July 1, 2020, or lose necessary funding from the Ohio Department of Health. The city’s Health Department could not achieve public health accreditation without substantial additional resources and reorganization. Council voted on Nov. 13, 2017, to close its own health department and join the CCBH, effective Jan. 1, 2018, at a savings of $245,000 each year. The recommendation was approved.

2018 & 2019 Budget Ordinances:

Mr. Baker then shared a presentation with Council summarizing the actual performance of the city’s departments, individually and as a whole, compared to the 2018 budget. The major issue for 2018 was the $535,000 income tax receipts shortfall during the last quarter and the lack of understanding as to the cause. The consequence of the shortfall was that final 2018 revenue was less than 2017. The concern is whether this shortfall is temporary or a “new normal.” The city was fortunate that all departments except Recreation were under budget for their 2018 spending and the Police Department’s thorough but slow process filling open positions resulted in a $1.2 million windfall. This allowed an increase in transfers out from the general fund into other funds and maintenance of a creditworthy reserve fund. Mr. Baker’s theory, shared by others, is that the 2018 federal tax code changes have significantly delayed quarterly estimated tax payments by individuals not subject to withholding and that the true impact will be known only after April 15, 2019, which is too late for a temporary budget. The 2019 final budget is therefore fiscally conservative: income tax receipts are estimated to rise only 2 percent over 2018 actuals whereas expenses will rise 3.5 percent. This does not include a 2 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for employees and will leave the year-end 2019 general operating fund surplus at only $7,198.

Mr. Williams asked if the budget could be amended if the city comes up short. Mr. Baker replied that state statute requires that the city spend only what receipts would support. Mr. Malone said he was optimistic about revenue but concerned about the elimination of COLA in the budget; that perhaps we should defer some capital spending to pay COLA. He added that this situation highlights how dependent the city is on individual income taxes versus business income taxes.

  1. Mr. Baker introduced the first of the city’s budget ordinances with his request to approve the amendments to various 2018 operating budget General Fund transfers and advances and to adopt an ordinance amending 2018 appropriations on first reading and as an emergency. The amendments need to be made so that there is sufficient appropriation authority within department and fund budgets to pay all personal service and other expenditure costs. The budget amendments are being requested in order to amend appropriation levels so that all year-end expenditures post in the 2018 budget year. The impact of the recommended budget amendments is included in the fourth quarter budget projections. The request was approved.
  2. Mr. Baker introduced an ordinance making appropriations for the current expenses and other expenditures of the city of Shaker Heights for the year ending Dec. 31, 2019, and declaring an emergency. This is the 2019 Operating Budget ordinance.

Mayor Weiss said that the city administration and Council are very concerned about the lack of COLA in the 2019 budget. Ms. Williams voiced her great disappointment about the lack of COLA and her belief that other budget changes could be made in order to allow COLA. She will support the budget but wants to continue to search for ways to reallocate money. Ms. Senturia thanked Ms. Chaikin and Mr. Baker for their responsible modification of the budget in light of the revenue shortfall. She was disappointed, given that the city is limited to spending within receipts, that there was no COLA, yet the city would continue to budget to maintain a 33 percent reserve at year-end. She questioned why the reserve was not drawn down in order to restore the COLA; the city could rebuild the reserve when future revenue allowed. Mayor Weiss replied that the city needed to preserve its credit rating. He would agree using the reserve is a good idea if needed and worthy of future discussion. Ms. Moore said she thinks this is a responsible budget in light of the city’s historically conservative fiscal planning; as soon as the city realizes increasing revenue, Council should prioritize COLA. The ordinance was approved with Ms. Senturia voting no.

  1. Mr. Baker introduced an ordinance appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund to provide for the purchase of equipment for use by the Police Department, and declaring an emergency. The ordinance was approved.
  2. Mr. Baker introduced an ordinance appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund to provide for the purchase of equipment for use by the Fire Department and declaring an emergency.

Mr. Malone asked where the new fire truck lease payment was recorded in the budget. Mr. Baker replied the lease payment was included as part of the “other” line of the Fire Department operating budget. Mr. Roeder wished to know the actual yearly expense for the lease. Mr. Baker replied the lease is $130,000 per year and the lessor receives a favorable tax treatment because the lease is to a government body. The ordinance was approved.

  1. Mr. Baker introduced an ordinance appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund to provide for the purchase of equipment for use by the Public Works Department and declaring an emergency. The ordinance was approved.
  2. Mr. Baker introduced an ordinance appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund for the acquisition of equipment and various repairs and improvement projects for various city facilities and declaring an emergency. The ordinance was approved.
  3. Mr. Baker introduced an amendment to two ordinances appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund for the acquisition of equipment and various repairs and improvement projects for various city facilities by appropriating an additional $225,000 from the General Capital Fund for City Hall renovation and declaring an emergency. The amendment was approved.
  4. Mayor Weiss introduced a recommendation appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund to provide for the 2019 Street Resurfacing Program, and declaring an emergency. The recommendation was approved.
  5. Mayor Weiss introduced a recommendation appropriating funds from the Sewer Capital Improvements Fund to provide funding for the repair of mainline sewers, laterals, and culverts, and declaring an emergency. The recommendation was approved.
  6. Mayor Weiss introduced a recommendation appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund for the acquisition of equipment, repairs, etc., by the Recreation Department and declaring an emergency. The recommendation was approved.
  7. Mayor Weiss introduced a recommendation appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund for the purchase of information technology equipment, software, and licenses for use by various city departments and declaring an emergency. The recommendation was approved.

Mayor Weiss adjourned the meeting at 9:29 p.m.
Frank Goforth

Library Board, Dec. 17, 2018

December 24th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Library Board of Trustees
Dec. 17, 2018

Present: Board members Bertsch, Cicarela, Garrett, Gleiser, Katz, Meinhard
Absent: Williams

After a brief executive session, the regular meeting was opened at 6:50 p.m. Minutes of previous meetings were approved; there was no community comment.

President Gleisser reported on a meeting of the joint facility planning committee (library, schools, city) and a memo of understanding about sharing costs associated with hiring a consultant for $40,000. Initially all bodies will share costs equally. Mr. Gleisser also expressed thanks to library staff and supporters for activities in 2018.

The fiscal officer reported about a 4 percent rise in the Public Library Fund (PLF) receipts over the previous year and a favorable variance in expenditures as well, enabling transfer of $175,000 from operating funds to the technology fund and to the capital fund. The board approved the move, as well as the monthly financial statement and a temporary allocation measure to serve until a final budget for 2019 is approved (due by the end of March, by law). It also approved a 2.5 percent pay increase for all library personnel, including (by separate motions because they are under contracts) the library director and fiscal officer. There was discussion about possible alternatives for renovation project financing options, still in exploratory stages. Ms. Katz suggested beginning to organize a capital campaign, including offering naming rights.

Director Amy Switzer continued the theme by noting several year-end giving options available to supporters. A grant has been received for establishing an early literary outreach collection. The renovation project owner’s rep RFP is out, and action can be expected at the January meeting. The director expressed hope that there will be a number of qualified candidates interested in filling the opening for a new trustee.

Gifts were accepted and appropriated. The regular meeting was adjourned at 7:35 p.m. and the annual organizational meeting was called to order at 7:37 p.m. Current officers will continue in their posts and the fiscal officer was reappointed. The 2019 board calendar was approved; the next meeting will be Jan.28 at Bertram Woods Branch. Responsibilities of board members were reviewed. The board approved a measure to allow the director or designee to allow disposal of unneeded materials and a measure to allow the Library to accept materials without board action. The organizational meeting adjourned at 8 p.m.
Kathleen Hickman

Finance Committee, Dec. 10, 2018

December 24th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Finance Committee
Dec. 10, 2018

Present: Council members Sean Malone (chair), Earl Williams, Robert Zimmerman; citizen members Thomas Cicarella, Martin Kolb, Linda Lalley, Anthony Moore
Others present: Mayor David Weiss, Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Director of Public Works Patricia Speese, Human Resources Manager Sandra Middleton, Director of Finance Robert Baker, Assistant Finance Director Cheryl Arslanian

The meeting was called to order by Mr. Malone at 7:31 a.m.

 Agenda—Committee actions:

  1. Me. Malone presented the minutes of the Nov. 19, 2018, meeting. The minutes were approved without further discussion.
  2. Ms. Speese presented a recommendation to approve and authorize the execution of a Community Cost Share Agreement with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in the amount not-to-exceed $50,000 for the Fairhill combined sewer overflow (CSO). The NEORSD notified Public Works that this outlet pipe for combined sewer overflow, located north of the Fairhill Road and Kemper Road intersection, discharges into Doan Brook and is owned by the city. NEORSD proposed a cost share for replacement since district flow is conveyed through the CSO during wet weather events. They are agreeable to paying 50 percent of the cost with a not-to-exceed $50,000. Mr. Malone wished to know if the work would include new sidewalks. Ms. Speese replied that the work area is between the sidewalk and Doan Brook, so only trees would be impacted. The recommendation was approved.
  3. Ms. Speese next presented a recommendation to accept a proposal and authorize a contract with GPD Group for design services for the Avalon and Strathavon Waterline Project in the amount of $53,622. Public Works applied for and received funding from Cleveland Water’s Suburban Water Main Renewal program to replace the water mains on Avalon Road (Fernway Road to Van Aken Boulevard) and Strathavon Road (Lomond Boulevard to Scottsdale Road). Cleveland Water Department (CWD) has agreed to pay for this project on the condition that Shaker Heights design and manage the project. CWD will pay the city the total costs of the design and construction. Mr. Kolb expressed surprise in the variance between bids for this design work. Ms. Speese echoed his surprise, but offered no explanation. Mr. Baker said that more than a decade ago, the city owned the water lines but transferred ownership to CWD with the stipulation that the city’s maintenance needs would be prioritized over other schedules. Ms. Speese remarked that since that time perhaps $20 million of repairs had been made whereby the money is transferred from CWD to the city up front and the city manages the design and implementation. Mr. Zimmerman expressed curiosity as to why the CWD had agreed to this arrangement. Jeri Chaikin interjected that this allowed income tax to be shared with CWD. Mayor Weiss wished to know if there was any risk CWD might balk at accepting anything other than lowest bid. Ms. Chaikin replied that the city has procurement authority, which saves CWD money for project management. The recommendation was approved.
  4. Ms. Chaikin presented a recommendation to approve and authorize a contract with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) in the amount of $135,033 for 2019 and $155,041 for 2020, to handle health permitting, licensing, and enforcement under Ohio law, and to provide various health-related services to the city’s residents. The State of Ohio adopted a requirement that all city health departments become accredited by the federal Public Health Accreditation Board by July 1, 2020, or lose necessary funding from the Ohio Department of Health. The city’s Health Department could not achieve public health accreditation without substantial additional resources and reorganization. Council voted on Nov. 13, 2017, to close its own Health Department and join the CCBH, effective Jan. 1, 2018, at a savings of $245,000 each year. Mr. Zimmerman asked if our health services had improved. Ms. Speese volunteered that the CCBH had provided training for Public Works employees regarding health impacts of storm sewers. Ms. Chaikin added that CCBH had specialists for many types of disease that impact public health. Ms. Lalley asked if the city had any mechanism to control CCBH costs—any comment or oversight authority. Ms. Chaikin said she would check, but added that the CCBH Advisory Council includes area mayors; she will inquire further. Mr. Malone asked if this increase was a “bump” or should it be expected every few years. Ms. Chaikin said the cost had been stable many years and the rise was mostly due to the recent state-mandated accreditation requirements. Mr. Malone asked if there were alternatives to using the county services. Ms. Chaikin answered that a city could either fund their own department or use the county services. Mr. Kolb reminded everyone the decision to suspend the city’s health department and utilize the CCBH had been debated extensively by City Council in 2017. Tom Cicarella remarked it would be helpful to find who had the power to control CCBH costs. Mr. Moore asked if the community understood the change from Shaker’s Health Department to CCBH services and how residents could get these CCBH services. Ms. Chaikin replied the City’s Health Services web page provided instructions on how to receive CCBH services and added that people who had used the city’s health services in the past had been personally notified. Mr. Moore added we should promote these expanded health services in coordination with the increase. The recommendation was approved.
  5. Ms. Middleton presented a recommendation authorizing a contract with McGowan Insurance for property and casualty insurance in the amount of $341,384 for the year 2019. This coverage includes automobile, general liability, property, public officials, law enforcement, fire department liability, employment practices, boiler and machinery, money and securities, computer, and valuable papers, to name a few. A Request for Proposals was sent to four agencies that have specialized experience insuring public sector clients; only McGowan Governmental Underwriters, the incumbent agent, provided a proposal, with a 6 percent increase. The overriding reason given for the agent/markets withdrawal from the process was the state of the city’s dams on Doan Brook. Mr. Moore complimented Ms. Middleton for the clarity of her report regarding the city’s dams. Mr. Williams added that insurance for the city had also increased due to lack of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance in some buildings and asked if claims had been filed. Ms. Middleton answered that no ADA claims had been filed, but the insurance increase would cover building upgrades should a claim be filed. Mr. Kolb wished to learn what claims were common. Ms. Middleton answered that personal injury and property claims due to auto and refuse scooter accidents were most common, and that there were some personal and property claims due to sewers and sidewalks. Mr. Williams said the city has “sovereign immunity” for some police and fire claims. Mr. Malone added the recent and ongoing Upper and Lower Lake dam repairs should affect insurance rates in the future. Mr. Williams asked if the insurance agents had received the Army Corps of Engineers reports on the new dam. Ms. Middleton replied they had. Mr. Cicarella recommended that the coverage increases, not just the overall 6 percent increase, be emphasized for City Council. The recommendation was approved.
  6. Discussion Item—Proposed 2019 General Fund Budget: Mr. Baker presented the latest update to the city’s 2019 Budget, which will be presented to City Council for approval at their final meeting of the year, Dec. 17, 2018. He offered some highlights:
    • The final RITA income tax distribution will occur the week of Dec. 10. Unfortunately, the trend since July has been down; in fact, the collection the first week of December was negative. He expects the month to be down $500,000-$600,000 compared to 2017. As has been discussed at previous Finance Committee meetings, his theory is that the 2018 federal tax code changes eliminating the state and local tax deduction are significantly impacting the collection of income taxes from those who estimate quarterly; withholding tax collections have not fallen. Conversely, RITA receipts in the first half of 2018 were higher than 2017, so a question is: will the 2018 shortfall be the new reality or will it be recovered in April 2019? In any event, the city will not know the answer until May 2019 and should budget accordingly. The Net General Fund end-of-year 2019 balance will shrink to $7,198 as a consequence of the 2018 revenue shortfall. This is “noise” level, leaving no room for surprises. The city’s reserve will decrease from 33.5 percent to 32.4 percent of expenses but the city will maintain an excellent credit rating.
    • The positive news is that Dec. 5 was the final date for 2018 payments to vendors/suppliers, so 2018 expenses are on the books and almost all departments spent under their 2018 budgets; only the Recreation Department exceeded its budget (by $200,000). The Police Department was significantly under budget in 2018 due to challenges filling open positions but is now at full strength for 2019.

Mayor Weiss said that some 2019 Budget Book items that had not historically been funded were now removed in order to maintain a positive 2019 General Fund balance, and transfers from the General Fund to Capital Funds during 2019 would be reduced by $1.7 million compared to 2018. Mr. Moore asked if the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for city employees was budgeted. Ms. Chaikin replied that any COLA increase for Public Works employees, retroactive due to the 2018 contract extension, was not included and any COLA increase exceeding 2 percent was not budgeted. Ms. Lalley asked if the city was being too conservative, given the public perception that the economy was good and people were earning and spending more. Mr. Weiss said these budget changes were not permanent, only temporary. Mr. Baker added that Ohio statute allowed only 90 days for “temporary” budgets, meaning a permanent budget must be adopted by April; however, as the city would not know the full revenue impact of federal tax law changes until May 2019, a “temporary” budget was not an option. Mr. Kolb questioned why we would not see revenue until June. Mr. Baker replied that RITA would not know actual tax receipts until May and would not credit the city before June. Mr. Kolb asked if the budget would be revisited in April. Mr. Baker replied that it would. Mr. Zimmerman commented that it was the most responsible action to be conservative at this time. Mr. Moore agreed it would be most fiscally responsible, but it did not match the public perception of a good economy, so perhaps the city needed to choose a “softer” description of the situation. Mr. Williams commented that the city was still trying to maintain a governing style from the time when estate taxes could be collected by the city, but we now had to concentrate more on income tax revenue, which will take time. Mr. Cicarella supported Mr. Baker’s theory regarding the federal tax law change driving the revenue shortfall in 2018, but questioned if it was merely delayed until April 2019 or permanent. Ms. Chaikin questioned whether the shortfall should be taken out of 2019 expenses or Capital Fund transfers. Mr. Malone agreed it was important how this was presented at the City Council meeting on Dec. 17.

Mr. Malone adjourned the meeting at 8:43 a.m.
Frank Goforth

City Council Work Session, Dec. 3, 2018

December 24th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

City Council Work Session
Dec. 3, 2018

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

Present: Mayor David Weiss; Council members Sean Malone, Nancy Moore, Tres Roeder, Julianna Johnston Senturia, Anne Williams, Earl Williams, and Robert Zimmerman; Finance Committee citizen members Martin Kolb and Anthony Moore
Others present: Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Finance Director Robert Baker, Law Director William Gruber, NOPEC Executive Director Chuck Keiper, NOPEC Relationship Manager Nicole Sweet, NOPEC Marketing Director Dave Jankowski

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

Agenda

  1. NOPEC (Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, the nonprofit that negotiates electricity rates for Shaker Heights residents) gave a presentation to Council on its 100 percent Green Energy Rate. Mr. Keiper told Council that NOPEC was looking to conduct a two-year pilot program on electric car sharing in Shaker Heights. NOPEC will provide the vehicles for what was described as a “cutting edge” plan. Shaker is one of five sites throughout Cuyahoga County selected for this pilot program.

The new 100 percent Green Energy Rate was discussed. Mr. Malone wanted to know how much per year the price differential between the plans amounted to. Council was having a difficult time figuring out the costs from the hand-outs NOPEC distributed at the meeting. Mr. Keiper noted that everyone wants 100 percent green energy until they look at the cost. NOPEC is offering five new products with a 100 percent renewable content option.

Public comment regarding the NOPEC presentation was given by Norman Robbins, who found in the past that the default (you have to opt-out) option is what 99 percent of people choose. He mentioned that the former mayor, Earl Leiken, let people know about the green option and few people chose it. He asked that the 100 percent green energy rate be made the default opt-out option. He noted that the cost of the 50 percent green energy option and the 100 percent green energy option were essentially the same, but whereas the 50 percent option offers a default opt-out option, the 100 percent does not. He asked NOPEC to consider making the 100 percent green energy option the default opt-out option.

  1. Proposed Revised 2019 General Fund Operating Budget and General Capital Budget: Mayor Weiss remarked that it has been an “interesting process” trying to project a budget with imperfect information. He said the revised budget was the best guess in light of current volatility and uncertainty and it’s unlikely that there will be any resolution to this uncertainty until well into 2019. The revised budget was described as an “unofficial temporary” budget. All of this volatility stems from the daily variability in RITA collections. At the macro level, collections are down substantially, and at the micro level there is constant fluctuation on a day-to-day basis. The budget will get modified in the second quarter of 2019.

Mr. Baker then began discussing his portion of the Revised 2019 General Fund Operating Budget Presentation (available on the city’s website). He reiterated the significant change in revenues and said the city was significantly behind in revenues this late into the year. Similar cities have had similar issues (Rocky River’s revenues were described as “dropping like a rock”), whereas other cities such as Bay Village have seen no drop off. Solon’s revenues are down, but they are cushioned by business and commercial taxes. Mr. Baker wasn’t sure if revenues were being impacted by the change in the new federal tax law (the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017), which limits the deductibility of state and local taxes, among other things. Mr. Zimmerman asked if the decrease in revenues was similar to the drop in 2007-08. Mayor Weiss said that we won’t know if the SALT (State and Local Taxes) reduction is the culprit until April-May. Mr. Baker said that there aren’t any big changes in Shaker. People aren’t leaving. But RITA isn’t giving any explanation, much to the finance director’s consternation. If it is SALT, the revenues will come in April-May, but it could be delayed another month.

The only way to make up for the decreased revenues this late in the planning process is to reduce expenditures and transfers. The proposed revised budget includes expenditure reductions and asks that Council “hold tight” as the scenario plays out. The following reductions were proposed: no COLA increase (the original budget called for a 2 percent cost-of-living increase), elimination of a consultant, a cut in researching tax relief and in a pilot project for a Lee Road streetscape plan. There are also reductions in transfers to the General Capital Fund.

 The next steps involve continual monitoring of income tax revenues, reconsidering changing to part-time to full-time positions; a delay in filling vacant positions; and the preparation of a revised 2019 Budget effective July 1, 2019, based on January-June revenues.

Ms. Senturia remarked on the challenge the decrease in tax revenue represents in deciding what to choose to eliminate or pare back. She suggested that the city may need to borrow more for pressing capital needs and to make more room for debt service in the capital budget. She said not offering COLA didn’t feel right to her and that the tax relief research project and videotaping Council meetings would be better cuts. Ms. Williams was troubled by the COLA recommendation as well. Mr. Malone suggested exploring options for delaying capital projects rather than decreasing COLA. “The situation is unprecedented and it is hard to move the needle on the operating budget at this point,” Mayor Weiss said. He added that the city can go back and restore the spending cuts as revenues increase.

The revised budget will be presented for adoption at the Dec. 17, 2018, City Council meeting. The meeting adjourned at 9:08 p.m.
Audrey Morris, Observer

Board of Education, November 2018

December 3rd, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Education
November 14, 2018

Present: William Clawson, LIsa Cremer, Jeffrey Isaacs, Ayesha Bell Hardaway, Heather Weingardt
Also Present: Dr. Stephen Wilkins, Interim Superintendent; and Bryan Christman, Treasurer; Architectural Consultants from Van Aukin Akins

The meeting was heavily attended, filling the upper cafeteria at the high school to capacity. Board President Jeffrey Isaacs  opened the meeting by reading remarks addressing the concerns raised at the Nov. 8 community meeting regarding ongoing personnel issues at the high school. The board acknowledges the emotions and frustrations of those attending, and recognizes a need to be fair and sensitive to both students and teaching staff, he said. Mr. Isaacs detailed a number of board actions taken, including dismissals and taking student complaints seriously by investigating matters–while also expressing the value they place in the teachers. Mr. Isaacs further noted the board’s support for established district processes in dealing with privacy and personnel matters. On another matter, the board has engaged Ray & Associates to help with the search for a new superintendent. The board letter/remarks can be read on the shaker.org website. The board is interested in hearing community feedback  and encourages communication through the site: board@shaker.org.

Woodbury Principal H. Danny Young formally opened the meeting with the help of 6th grader Anjum Reddy, who read a short essay on what she especially appreciates about being a student at Woodbury. He praised Fernway Principal Chris Hayward’s team for their positive presence at Woodbury.  New clubs are continuing to be formed and 47 percent of 5th and 6th graders are involved in a club or after- school activity.  A “Critical Frames” protocol is being utilized as part of Woodbury’s IB program.

The October minutes were read and approved.

Public Communication: An unusual amount of time was allotted for public communication to the board. General policy is that the maximum amount of time allotted is 30 minutes. Public comments addressing the board lasted 70 minutes, with 18 people addressing the board.  SHHS teacher Dr. Morris  represented the Shaker Heights Teachers Association in support of the English teacher who is currently on a leave of absence. Two educators expressed support for their colleague, and spoke to the dedication and excellence of teaching staff.  Others voiced support for  students who initiate complaints.  Comments included those made by community members, alumni, parents and former parents. On another important matter for the district, several Fernway parents, students (two second graders), and members of the Fernway neighborhood urged the board to approve a generous budget for an enhanced school building and spoke to the constraints of the old building.

Honors and Recognition: Dr. Wilkins commended the hockey program and their fundraising successes. The High School Art Club created a chalk wall for the Van Aken District. The MAC scholars continue to excel. Lia Gomez-Perez and Kevin LaMonica (our own 2018-19 Legacy Fellow!) were recognized by the College Board under the National Hispanic Recognition Program – only 5,000 students out of 250,00 qualify for this honor.

Equity Task Force Update: The task force has continued to meet without consultative support. A draft of the Shaker policy has been completed. In December there will the first reading of the policy following a review by the Policy Committee. Several board members thanked the task force for its hard work.

In a related matter, SGORR successfully organized a “Rapid Response” Forum at the High School with more than 150 students and community members in attendance.

Fernway Update: The Finance and Audit Committee looked at the budget options. There was clarification of what has been commonly referred to as the “preferred plan,” which is a $5 million option. This option would be a complete plan upgrade, including all outside site work, a complete cooling system, and a gymnasium addition–which many parents stated a desire for, given prior space constraints.  The insurance coverage for Fernway amounts to $14.6 million dollars. The board unanimously voted to approve the $3 million option while considering the potential of two phases of improvements. The district will look to the future for additional funds from various sources, including savings from possible bond expenditure funds, $1.3 million previously allocated to Fernway, future operational savings from capital funds, and possible fundraising opportunities.  The $3 million option allows for all interior educational spaces with significant improvements. It does not include any site work, which would cost an extra $750,000 to $1 million.  The architects will work to maximize all options. Principal Hayward will be consulted to prioritize needs. Interim Superintendent Wilkins is currently looking into other funding sources and possibilities. The contractors are suggesting that work could be completed in 14 months. Dr. Wilkins thanked the Fernway community “for their passion and advocacy.”

Facilities Construction Update: Continued work at the High School, Middle School, Woodbury, Boulevard, Lomond and Onaway include ADA, security and structural upgrades. At the high school,  water-main line improvements will address water pressure problems and the north parking lot will need repair.

This observer had to leave at 8 p.m. before the meeting adjourned.
Anne Batzell