Stiff penalties are now in effect for the Village of Newcomerstown. However, far worse penalties could be implemented if the village financial situation does not improve.
"It's not a blank check book here," Sharon Hanrahan, administrator of the Financial Planning and Commission, said at last Tuesday's Village of Newcomerstown Financial Planning and Supervision Commission meeting. "This, again, is not where we should be at all."
Hanrahan said the village has not updated its financial recovery plan that was first approved on Oct. 8. By law, they would have had 120 days to amend the proposal which would have deleted the property tax line that would have generated extra income for the village. Instead, they have not amended the plan.
"Yes, the deadline came and went," Hanrahan said. "Effective March 1st, the Village of Newcomerstown's spending in the general fund will be reduced to 85 percent of what was spent in March of 2013. The reduction in spending will continue month by month until a plan is approved by council and submitted to the commission to vote on."
Financial Planning and Supervision Commission member Jeff Staggs said with no recovery plan and no updated budget numbers, "we are just spinning our wheels here because we don't have anything to work with."
By law, the village is to "close" the financial books for the month by the 12th of the following month, however, that has not been the case, according Laura Brown from the Auditor of State's Office.
"It's just not working," Hanrahan said. "We still need a full-time fiscal officer."
Currently, two part-time fiscal officers have been doing the work that a full-time person would be doing.
Not having updated numbers from each account does not give department supervisors accurate numbers for spending.
"It's going to take coordination that we don't have now," Hanrahan said. "If I was him (Mayor Jim Friel), I wouldn't sign off on any expenditures right now. You can't run a village like that now."
Mayor Friel was not in attendance at the meeting. He reportedly had an emergency.
Hanrahan warned that if spending continues in the village, criminal charges could be implemented under the Ohio Revised Code.
Under section 118.99 penalty of the ORC, it states that if a person knowingly enters into any contract, financial obligation or other liability, it is a misdemeanor of the second degree. Upon conviction of any officer or employee of a municipal corporation, an employee shall forfeit office or employment. For the seven-year period immediately following the date of conviction, such officer shall also be ineligible to hold any public office or other position of trust in this state or be employed by any public entity in this state.
"We just need better coordination period," Hanranhan said. "We need more information, more timely."