Financial outlook for Niles Schools improves, city continues to struggle

For Niles to be released from fiscal emergency, it would have to document financial stability out five years, which could take some time

NILES, Ohio (WYTV) – Ohio Auditor Dave Yost has overseen the finances of Niles City government, the school district, or both for the past 13 years. On Wednesday afternoon, he appeared before the city and schools to update them on their current financial situation.

Yost addressed the commission he created to oversee the city’s fiscal emergency. The city is not released from fiscal emergency yet, but Yost challenged the commission to bring him back the first of next year with its own certificate of fiscal integrity.

“The state doesn’t want to supervise Niles but we do want to help you get back on your feet,” he said.

Yost said Niles spends $711 per resident, and that Ashtabula operates on less and is not in fiscal emergency.

“What these numbers show is that you can get there. You can run a town this size on the money you have.”

Turning over tax collections to the Regional Income Tax Agency (RITA) was the number one priority of the commission at one point in time. At Wednesday’s meeting, Mayor Tom Scarnecchia nixed the idea.

“I have come to the conclusion to allow our tax department another chance with the stipulation of one year,” he said.

Should the tax department fail in any way, the city will use RITA.

Tim Lintner of the auditor’s office said as of May 31, the city showed a year-end budget surplus of $252,000. An expected budget adjustment, along with a new heating and air conditioning system for city hall, could wipe that out.

“If something else breaks, there’s not a lot of money left to fix anything capital-related at this point. That was one of the ways the city balanced their budget was stripping out most of their capital expenditures,” Lintner said.

For Niles to be released from fiscal emergency, it would have to document financial stability out five years, which could take some time.

Before addressing the city, Yost delivered good news to Niles City Schools, saying the district had been released from fiscal watch. The watch was issued in 2003 when the schools were $2.9 million in debt.

Now the schools have a positive projected fund balance out five years. Yost said he applauds them for their success.

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