Still in fiscal emergency: Commission worries about Niles’ progress

Quentin Potter, chairman of the commission overseeing Niles' fiscal emergency

NILES, Ohio (WYTV) – This month marks two years since the City of Niles was placed under fiscal emergency, but there’s still no indication it’s close to coming out of it.

Niles continues to spend more than what’s coming in, meaning the plan may have to change again.

Marianne Miller has lived there for more than 75 years. She’s watched the area change, sometimes drastically.

She called Monday evening’s meeting of the commission overseeing Niles’ fiscal emergency the most informative so far.

“I feel like we’re improving a little bit,” Miller said, although she admitted there’s still a long way to go.

Commission member John Davis said the city had more revenue than it did going into 2016 but ended up spending more money, possibly as a result of the additional revenue.

“I found myself with $5 in my pocket, and I spent it instead of saving it. So we still have an expense problem.”

Davis was the most vocal person at the meeting Monday. After 21 meetings, Davis said he feels very little has been accomplished.

“This is the 22nd. I’m still seeing a lot of the same pain that I saw 21 meetings ago in expenses,” he said. “And it’s no better. How do we fix this? How do we get better?”

One item the commission focused on was the wellness center. Financial Supervisor Tim Litner says it has a $150,000 deficit, causing a strain on city resources. The city still needs more money this year to keep the wellness center operating.

“He needs about $40,000 more to finish the year, so you’re looking at increasing it because without it, nothing can be spent out of the line item. We’re already, we’re at a tightrope right now with this year’s budget,” said Financial Supervisor Nita Hendryx.

The city’s water department is still running a $500,000 deficit and that must be corrected before Niles can get out of fiscal emergency.

The report wasn’t all bad news, though. The city’s water deficit has been cut by $1.2 million since the start of 2016.

Council also decided Monday afternoon to make amendments to the financial plan by December of this year.

“We are at a point, though, where we should be talking about having Niles emerge from fiscal emergency and I don’t think we’re there,” said Quentin Potter, commission chairman.

The way the budget stands now, the city will end the 2016-17 fiscal year with only a $27,000 surplus. Litner says there isn’t much room for surprises next year.