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Full-time finance director position before Council

3/27/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

NEW FRANKLIN — Legislation to make the part-time finance director position in New Franklin a full-time job was introduced to Council March 19.

The resolution states the position would be established on a trial basis for the remainder of this year at an annual salary of $48,000 and include full retirement and health insurance benefits. The pay would be prorated for the amount paid to date to the current finance director, Susan Cooke, according to Mayor Al Bollas.

Currently, the New Franklin charter states the finance director is a part-time position. The Charter Review Commission is reviewing that matter, as well as qualifications for the position, according to Robin Aikey, a commission member who spoke at the meeting. The current qualifications include a college degree in accounting or a related field and a minimum of five years’ experience. Some discussion took place to change that to require a degree or five years’ experience, according to Aikey.

The commission meets on Thursdays at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 5611 Manchester Road.

The commission is expected to present its recommendations regarding any changes to the charter to Council for approval before they are placed on the November General Election ballot.

Bollas told Council Cooke has been working full time because of the workload in the job. He also said the state auditor has suggested that it is time for the city to hire a full-time finance director, but he added the city has had a difficult time finding a finance director that meets the qualifications as stated in the charter and who is willing to work part time.

Some Council members wondered if the comment about the full-time position may have been intended to address a number of problems the city has had with audits in the last few years. In 2012, three different people worked on the city’s finances, including Scott Svab, who left in January 2012 after one-and-a-half years with the city for a full-time position in Macedonia; Coventry Fiscal Officer Joni Murgatroyd, who was hired to help with the city finances before Cooke was hired; and Cooke, who was hired in March 2012 and worked with Murgatroyd for a few months.

Other council members believe the auditor’s suggestion was made because of the size of the city’s budget, which was about $12 million last year.

Councilwoman Judy Jones (at large) said she was one of the city officials who talked to the auditor and was told former clerk/treasurer Kathy Witwer, who served in a part-time position from April 2006 to March 2010, was the “best they had seen in the city.”

Witwer spoke out against hiring a full-time finance director at the last Council meeting.

Councilman Paul Adamson (Ward 1) said the city “could use a full-time finance director.”

He also noted the city is dealing with about the same amount of money it has for the last few years, when it had a part-time finance director, and asked about the other three full-time office employees, who do some finance department work.

“Do we need these other three positions [to be full-time if we hire a full-time finance director] and can we afford that?” asked Adamson.

If the city were to hire a full-time finance director, REA & Associates would still be needed to do annual GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) conversions, according to Cooke, who said that effort converts the city’s cash-basis financial information to the accrual basis of accounting needed for audit purposes. Cooke added most communities hire outside firms to do that work.

The city’s REA contract costs $11,500, but in the past few years, the actual cost has been several thousand dollars more, and that is likely for this year, too, according to Cooke.

Councilwoman Andrea Norris (at large) supported the mayor’s request to make the finance director’s position full time.

“We are not here all the time, and we should defer to the mayor because he is in a position to know,” said Norris. “The legislation does allow us to revisit this at any time during the year.”

Councilman Gust Kalapodis (Ward 4) called for a vote on the legislation after its first reading, but Council voted 4-3 against bypassing the required three readings, indicating more deliberation was needed on the matter. Kalapodis, Norris and Councilman Terry Harget (Ward 2) voted in favor of bypassing the three readings.

In other business during the meeting, Council voted unanimously to obtain pavement marking stripeing services, as well as the 2014 paving chip and seal program through the Summit County Engineer’s Office’s bid, which aggregates the work and reduces the cost to participating communities.

Council also approved seven properties to be placed in an agriculture district after a public hearing. The properties include: 5737 and 5796 Van Buren Road (93 acres); 6100 S. Main St. (23 acres); 7250 Benner Road (72 acres); 5060 Karen Drive (24 acres); 5563 Taylor Road (7 acres); 1523 W. Center Road (38 acres); and a 5-acre-property on State Road.

Also at the meeting, Councilman Harry Gehm (at large) said Road Department officials reported they spend about $9,000 mowing ball fields in the city, and they are suggesting the work should be contracted out. Gehm added that city officials might want to consider charging a small per child fee to youth leagues using the fields to help pay for maintenance work such as mowing and grooming.

The next Council meeting will take place April 2 starting at 6 p.m. with committee meetings, followed immediately afterward with the regular Council meeting, at City Hall, 5611 Manchester Road.

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