Following a path worn well by the city of East Cleveland, leaders and constituents in Maple Heights now find themselves in “fiscal emergency,” according a report from State Auditor David Yost.
Beyond running a $2.8-million deficit, the city owes more than $125,000 in Ohio Water Development Authority loans. Based on that and the auditor’s recent ruling, a special commission will be appointed to shepherd the city through a recovery plan.
Mayor Jeffrey Lansky offered a chilling quote to the Associated Press
last week: “We’re not in the bone. We’re in the marrow,” referencing the city’s total inability to cuts costs further. City payroll has been slashed by more than half half since 2007, he said. Continuing the anatomical metaphor, Lansky said the auditor’s report was “a kick in the teeth” to his city. East Cleveland, as mentioned above, is the only other city in Ohio presently in the grips of the “fiscal emergency” tag.
Since 2000, the city of Maple Heights has lost more than 12 percent of its population. In 2012, median household income hovered around $36,000 (against a statewide median of $46,829).
“This is a call to action for Maple Heights. Their fiscal crisis demands it,” Yost wrote last week.
It’s unclear when the advisory commission will a) be appointed and b) begin meeting. It’s a lengthy process that involves the crafting of a municipal budget template to be compared against the city’s actual proposed budget.
“We have yet to have an opportunity to arrange meetings for our budget, which is actually an imperative at this point,” Council President Jackie Albers said Feb. 18. The municipal budget package is due by March 31.
Speaking of the advisory commission, she added: “This is going to be a new process for all of us, and I think we’re going to have to feel our way through it. We have yet to see down. There are also other folks who have been through this who we will look to for guidance.” (For what it’s worth, the commission in East Cleveland has become tangled with delays; notably, Mayor Gary Norton has made a habit
out of missing those meetings.)
“This is a state in time. It may or may not be a continuous situation,” Finance Director Irene Crowell said. “In my opinion, we’re actually doing better than what we were doing last year.”
City Council meets again March 4. Some continued semblance of discussion on the matter is expected. Meantime, it’s worth pointing out that the New York Times
published a 2007 article
exploring the short- and long-term impacts of the mortgage crisis in Maple Heights. Good morning reading, if you’re so inclined.