October 29, 2018
Here is a brief summary of the special public meeting of the Geauga County Budget Commission on the Russell Township Park District (1545)’s budget issues:
Geauga County Auditor Chuck Walder made a very clear and understandable presentation on the history of the 1545’s budget problems, the Budget Commission’s decision not to approve the 1545’s budget, and the current state of their ongoing budget problems. He also raised a new issue that his office discovered (point 1 below).
In essence, 3 things were clear to me after the presentation:
1. There is a serious issue, recently discovered by the Chief Compliance Officer of the Auditor’s office, that puts all actions of the 1545 since last November, including the lease to GPD, in question. Ohio Revised Code 1545.05(A) requires that each commissioner’s bond “be approved by and filed with the county auditor.” No bonds for the current commissioners have been approved by or filed with the Auditor’s office. Ohio Revised Code 3.30 provides that the failure of an official to file a bond and qualify for the performance of duties is to be deemed a refusal to accept the appointment to office. Therefore, the 1545 does not have duly appointed commissioners and has been functioning without them for nearly a year.
2. It is highly likely that the 1545 has much more than $30,000 in the General Fund, probably enough to cover maintenance of our Russell parks for the next 5 years. Because the 1545 has refused to show the public the report of their accountant that allegedly states that they have a balance of $30,000, the public can’t know for sure. The County Auditor believes, I think reasonably based on the numbers available to him, that the 1545’s accountant may have confused inside and outside millage. The 1545 could actually have more like $130,000 in it’s General Fund.
3. The contention that previous 1545 boards split the land acquisition levy money 80%/20% to land acquisition and general funds, respectively is flat out wrong. In the past, the 1545 received a lump sum that included both land acquisition levy money and inside millage from the township. For many years, 20% of that lump sum represented the inside millage and 80% represented the levy money. When the township cut back on millage to the 1545, those percentages changed, but the 1545 continued to put 20% of the lump sum payment into the general fund when a higher percent of the lump sum belonged to the land acquisition fund.
I will keep you posted on further developments.