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POLL: Maple Heights Residents Appreciate the Police, Unsure of City Officials

25 Aug
Results of Poll asking voters their opinion of taxes in Maple Heights

In the second poll of the summer, we took a different tack. We asked residents how they feel about various parts of the Maple Heights city government. We found that our hard-working police force is held in high esteem and that residents question whether city officials are acting in their best interests. Residents on the […]

Maple Heights Scorns Residents and City Charter When Approving 2015 Budget

26 Mar
Maple Heights City Official break trust with residents.

The Maple Heights City Charter states that “provision shall be made for public hearings upon the appropriation ordinance.” Nevertheless, Council passed the budget tonight without a single hearing or even opportunity for an open dialogue about the budget. This kind of behavior – which is typical – destroys the trust that the City needs to […]

Maple Heights 2015 Budget Presented

12 Mar
Cover sheet from the Maple Heights 2015 Budget

The 2015 Annual Appropriations (view document online) were presented this evening at a Special Council Meeting. This is equivalent to the budget for the City for the entire year. The administration has proposed a budget of roughly $17.5 million dollars. Last year, the City spent $21.7 million. According to the finance director, about $1 million […]

Leading from the Front – Pay Cuts For Elected Officials

05 Mar
An ordinance reducing the salaries of the Mayor and Council in the City of Maple Heights.

Ordinance 2015-09 was introduced last night (see video above). This legislation proposes to reduce the salaries of Council and the Mayor beginning in 2016. This measure would realize a cost savings of $37,000 for the City annually. Furthermore, it would show that we, as elected officials, are serious and willing to share in the pain […]

PRESS RELEASE: Maple Heights Officials Waste $30,000 Fighting Their Own Residents

10 Nov
The cameras are gone but only after Maple Heights wastes $31,000 of the taxpayers' money.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 11/10/14 Councilman Bill Brownlee City of Maple Heights, Ohio 216 501 1153 Maple Heights, OH: The City of Maple Heights has wasted more than $30,000 in needlessly fighting the traffic camera petition in September. The Ohio Supreme Court required the City to pay attorney’s fees on behalf of the relators in […]

Community Meeting: Maple Heights Financial Situation

05 Aug [box type="info"]The handouts from this meeting are available for download here.[/box] On July 24th Councilman Bill Brownlee held a community forum on the financial situation of Maple Heights. The small group of residents that attended were greatly pleased with the depth of information presented. Most were shocked to learn things that night they had not known, even though the events had happened years ago. Let the Facts Drive the Discussion Councilman Brownlee started his presentation by pointing the audience to the various handouts they had received at the door. "These are all original documents," said Brownlee, "I don't want you to take my word for it; I want you to see it for yourself." These city documents are a pivotal part of the presentation and have been provided for you online (link). I don't want you to take my word for it; I want you to see it for yourself. He started by outlining the discussion for the evening. It sounded much like an article on MHN from February where Councilman Brownlee stated, "There may be problems outside, but the problem – financial irresponsibility – is within." In this presentation, the facts drove the discussion much like they did in February's article. The presentation was broken into two parts: 1. How We Got Here; 2.How We Get Out. How We Got Here Brownlee wasted no time diving into the first of the 4 handouts that night. At 1:15 into the meeting, he directs the audience to the June 17, 2013 Finance Committee Meeting handout. On the back side is a full report of the revenues for the General Fund for years 2008-2014. This is where Maple Heights started: General Fund Recurring Revenue: $15 million Treasury Funds (money in the bank): $7.3 million Then the economic downturn came along and cut the City's revenues by about $3 million: Property Taxes: down $1 million Local Government Funds (funding from the State): down $1 million Income Taxes: down $.5 million Other Losses: about $.5 million These were all the of the external forces that reduced revenues of the City. These changes are nothing to thumb your nose at. So what did Maple Heights do about it? This is where the internal forces and decisions made come forward. The City made a number of decisions a few years ago. The one good decision that was made was to reduce personnel costs (HANDOUT: "Why is the Levy Needed"). Mayor Lansky laid off or did not replace city employees. He also negotiated concessions from the unions for 2012. However, there were many bad decisions made as we look back on the past few years. First, in 2008 and 2009, Mayor Lansky borrowed a total of $13 million. Some of it went to refinance older debt but most of it was spent on various improvements within the City (HANDOUT: Ordinance 2010-44): Road Construction: $6.2 million City Recreation Facilities and Pool: $1.8 million Vehicles for Service and Building Departments: $1.1 million Improving City Buildings: $1.3 million Besides the lack of foresight, the most shocking part about this loan is that no one knew about it. At the meeting, only one person was aware of this $13 million loan the people of Maple Heights are required to pay off. The City will be paying roughly $1.2 million each year in loan payments until 2030. That is money gone from the budget before a single dime is spent to operate the City. When all is said and done, this loan will cost Maple Heights residents $21 million. This is just the facts. I'm just giving you the the facts, the figures. Other poor choices were outsourcing the Building Department and perpetually over-spending the budget. Outsourcing the Building Department has actually cost the City money (though it was touted as a money saving decision) and devastated that department's services. The Mayor Lansky and City Council consistently overspent their budgets and revenues until there is almost no money left in the bank. Now, six years later, Maple Heights is sitting in a much different situation financially: General Fund Recurring Revenue: $12 million Treasury Funds (money in the bank): less than $1 million Now Maple Heights is in Fiscal Watch with the State Auditor's office. The City is truly teetering on the edge of Fiscal Emergency. Some of the causes were external, but some were internal. How We Get Out Before jumping into the next half-baked money saving/generating scheme, Brownlee encouraged the audience to take a moment to reflect on where we truly are (fast-forward to 15:58). "There have been people who have told me, 'Bill, don't look back, just look forward," said Brownlee. "[But] those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. Do we want to repeat that history? No. So we better learn from it." Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. Looking back at what has brought Maple Heights to this point, there are a few things that stand out: Disregard for Generally Accepted Acounting Principles (GAAP) Disregard for State Laws Overspending the Certificate of Estimated Resources from the the County Negative Fund Balance Spending Rushing Decisions - not enough consideration; no public input Appropriations (the budget) was always chasing expenditures Wishful Thinking Councilman Brownlee outlines each of these points and shows how they contributed to the financial situation of the City. Then he contends that the real problems are not the money problems, but how attempt to solve these problems. Attitude: It's Everything After showing where Maple Heights started, what happened, and what caused it; Brownlee then asks a question, "What was actually happening behind the scenes that caused these [poor choices] to come to pass?" This is where the discussion becomes interesting. It becomes apparent that a source of many of the problems was not financial in nature, but a matter of attitudes. What was actually happening behind the scenes? Brownlee pulls out the Finance Committee Meeting handout and shows a concrete example. In the "2013 Estimate" column, there is a higlighted item at the bottom in the amount of $300,000. This money was "expected" to come from the buyout of a billboard lease. This money was figured into the budget and used to validate overspending the expected revenue of the City. However, the money never came - it was all wishful, and irresponsible, thinking. This is just one example of the real problems contributing to the financial situation of Maple Heights. The solution may involve finding more money for the City, but it needs to start with an attitude adjustment. Rushing decisions and ignoring accounting principles have done more harm to Maple Heights than anything else. Maple Heights is on the verge of Fiscal Emergency because of poor attitudes and practices, not financial strain.

On July 24th Councilman Bill Brownlee held a community forum on the financial situation of Maple Heights. The small group of residents that attended were greatly pleased with the depth of information presented. Most were shocked to learn things that night they had not known, even though the events had happened years ago. Let the […]

The Heart of the Money Problem

06 Feb
Maple Heights City Hall building in winter.

We need to set something straight concerning the $2.5 million deficit in Maple Heights. There has been a lot of complaining and blame-shifting in our City. Whether it is the County Executive, the State Auditor, the Governor, bad landlords, property devaluations, or even Representative John Barnes; we seem to be intent on blaming our woes […]