BUCKEYE LAKE – Buckeye Lake Village’s new part-time fiscal officer Vince Popo inherited quite a mess.
Buckeye Lake’s 2009 financial audit, which the State of Ohio Auditor released Sept. 7, found plenty of deficiencies. No money is missing nor illegally spent, but money was routinely placed in the wrong funds last year, which made it difficult for council to estimate appropriations accurately.
“There’s nothing missing, that’s the big thing,” said Popo. “That’s a strong indicator that a lot of things were done right.” He said there’s no one person to blame for Buckeye Lake’s poor audit report, but Popo estimates it’ll take six months to a year to straighten it out. Popo was Millersport’s fiscal officer for several years and is currently its assistant fiscal officer as well as mayor’s assistant. He noted that Buckeye Lake has had four parttime fiscal officers in the past six years. “In Millersport there was continuity,” he said.
Popo said some of the problem was trying to navigate the “virgin territory” of setting up public water system-related accounts for grants and loans. “We made those changes right away,” he said.
Popo said Buckeye Lake should consider eventually making the fiscal officer position full time. “I’m not looking for a 40 hour a week job,” he repeatedly stressed, adding that someone else would take over when or if it ever becomes a full time position. He does not plan to hire an outside CPA to help organize the village’s accounts, commenting that most CPAs are not well versed in government accounting. Popo said he and Clerk Treasurer Michelle Shumaker would work through the problems.
“It’s basically bookkeeping,” said Thornville Fiscal Officer Melissa Tremblay, who also acts as a bookkeeping consultant to some area villages and townships. “Money was put into the wrong account or set up in an account incorrectly. Once it’s fixed, it’ll be smooth sailing.”
Popo said the biggest issue facing local governments is how to estimate how much tax revenue will be lost from foreclosed homes and cuts in state funding as Ohio tries to close a possible $8 billion deficit early next summer. “The next biennial budget (starting July 1, 2011) scares the Dickens out of me,” said Popo. “You have to control what you spend.”
In other village news:
• Council’s decision to send a pay scale and salary ordinance through its Finance Committee angered council member Donna Thompson, who voted against sending the ordinance to the committee. She then stormed out of Monday night’s meeting. She believes council is dragging its feet on approving pay raises for the Buckeye Lake Police Chief Ron Small and Captain James Hanzey. According to the ordinance, Small and Hanzey would receive a $1 per hour increase retroactive to June 1, 2010, and then a two percent cost of living increase on January 2011 and January 2012. Previously, the personnel committee, which Thompson chairs, approved the raises.
Monday night, council member Jeryne Peterson said pay schedule adjustments should be for all village departments, not for just one in particular, and suggested the finance committee review the ordinance.
Council and personnel committee member Kaye Hartman said any concerns about the ordinance should’ve been brought up earlier because the personnel committee already made its recommendation. She also thought council was dragging its feet, but she agreed that the finance committee should review everything involving money. All council members except Thompson voted to send the ordinance back to the finance committee before it comes before the full council.
• Council member and safety committee Chair Clay Carroll said his committee recommends turn- ing Dockside Rd. into a one-way street from Anchors Way to Lighthouse Lane. He said only one resident in the area opposed the idea and fire department officials said the department travels that direction on Dockside, anyway.
Service Director Tim Matheny said the village would need to draft and approve an ordinance to make the street one-way, and then there’s a 30-day waiting period following council approval before the change can be made. So, it’ll be at least a month and a half before it happens.
Council President Charlene Hayden suggested sending flyers to residents affected by the change when and if it’s approved.
• People not maintaining their yards should beware, said Mayor Rick Baker. He said Zoning Inspector Rod Riley will issue warnings to residents who are not properly mowing and maintaining their lawns. Notified residents will have one week to respond. If two notices are ignored, te village will have the work done and the cost will be placed on the property
owner’s real estate taxes.. “It’s time to get tough with these people,” he said.
Baker said overall the village is “starting to look pretty good,” as streets damaged by installation of the water distribution system are being repaved and derelict houses are being demolished.
Bob’s Bar owner Bob Ludwig demolished derelict buildings on his property at his own expense.
Director of Development Valerie Hans said 87 Terrace and 6 Lake Street were the most recent demolitions. She said the village would also clean up the 52 Seymour Ave. site, where a house was demolished but debris remains.
• Buckeye Lake Beggar’s Night will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 28 and will feature “Trunk or Treat,” where local businesses will park vehicles at Ryan-Braden Park and distribute treats from their vehicles.
• Fall Clean Up Days are Oct. 6 -9. Village residents will be able to deposit trash and other unwanted items for free in trash containers located at the street department garage behind the village office. Dumpers should be prepared to show proof of residency.