Niles now operating in black, one step closer to financial recovery

NILES, Ohio (WYTV) – Every city department in Niles is now operating in black, meaning the financial situation is as good Tuesday night as it has been in three years — ever since the Ohio auditor put the city in fiscal emergency.

“As of today, late September 2017, all accounts are in the black and we’re moving forward,” said Niles Service Director Ed Stredney.

The mood inside Niles City Hall was optimistic after the announcement at Monday’s meeting of the commission overseeing the fiscal emergency.

“I know the state auditors at one time said that we need to stand tall again. We’re up on one knee,” Councilman Barry Steffey said.

Steffey, who is also chairman of the finance committee, specifically listed several changes Niles had made. Those included creating new purchasing and hiring policies, cutting overtime and banking fees, and convincing Niles voters to pass a half-percent increase in the income tax.

“We’ve let a cell phone tower locate near the city cemetery for $170,000. It’s been pragmatic, it’s been planned, and it’s not been easy,” Steffey said.

At times over the past three years, tempers have flared as Niles looked to make changes.

And Steffey’s right — it hasn’t been easy. Seven different plans were given to the fiscal commission for approval.

The goal now is to get Niles out of fiscal emergency and get the city back operating on its own. Stredney has a good idea on when that might get done.

“We got to lay out a true five-year plan that can show us getting healthier and healthier,” he said. “I would expect by the end of 2018, possibly the beginning of 2019, that we’d emerge from fiscal emergency.”

Though it was talked about — even threatened a few times — Niles’ recovery has been done without laying anyone off.