2011 budget hearings begin Monday

While some area municipalities continue to struggle with their finances, the city of Lakewood projects it will end 2010 with a $3.1 million general fund cash balance, its largest sum in seven years. At the end of 2007, the cushion was around $340,000. It has grown in size largely due to cuts in city services and personnel.

On Monday, November 22nd the council will hold the first of a series of meetings to discuss the details of next year’s proposed $36 million general fund budget. Early indications are that it will be structurally balanced – in other words, income will exceed expenses, and there won’t be a need to dip into the cash reserves or cut services and employees. (.see PDF).

Topics of the budget discussion could include:

-         The Division of Police is seeking to double the number of part-time officers from 5 to 10. Funding for the program would increase from $117,000 to $257,000. Part-time officers do a lot of gopher work and allow full-time officers to spend more time on patrol.

-         All municipal employees are eligible to receive a 1% cost of living salary increase in 2011. The cost to the general fund could be as much as $215,000. Non-union workers will get the boost at the discretion of the mayor based on their performance reviews. Only three of the seven unions representing city workers have agreed to new contracts. The deals mandate a 1% wage increase in 2011 and a 2% jump in 2012. (see contracts .PDF Paramedics, AFSCME 1, AFSCME 2)

-         The Department of Planning and Development is asking for $175,000 for duplex conversion and property reinvestment. $148,800 was set aside last year and would total $323,800.

-         Water and sewer rates are shooting up again and will continue to increase for the next few years. The city paid $53,600 to Raftelis Financial Consultants to study the situation and make recommendations. (see .PDF).

-         The tax money due from the estate of former Cleveland Indians owner and Winton Place resident Dick Jacobs, who died in 2009, will probably enter the city coffers sometime in 2011. The exact amount is not known, and the city doesn’t have any special plans for it.

-         Total revenues in the Lakewood Hospital Fund (the city owns the hospital and leases it to the Cleveland Clinic) will decrease $20,000 in 2011. No reason was provided for the change, but as an amusing side note, there were 13% fewer births at Lakewood Hospital through October versus last year.

-         The city wants to extend its fiber optic network to Lakewood Park for future use with security cameras. Also, the city will pursue outside funding sources to assist in financing the park’s long-planned fishing pier.

Summers appointed to mayor’s office, absence leaves giant hole on council

Meeting in executive session for about 15 minutes during a timeout in their regular session last Monday, City Council unanimously voted to appoint Councilperson Michael Summers (Ward 3) to complete the remaining year left in the unexpired term of the outgoing mayor. Councilperson Nickie Antonio was absent and Summers abstained from the vote.

The council tried to add a patina of fairness to the process by accepting applications for the position from interested residents, but didn’t formally interview anyone. The move to appoint Summers was in the works for more than a year, according to a blurb in the PD.

It is difficult to predict how a councilperson will perform as mayor. Edward O. FitzGerald, for instance, was a councilperson at-large for almost 10 years and appeared to be someone who could have had a considerable positive impact on the fortunes of the city. To the detriment of the city, however, he turned out to be a very flawed character that repeatedly put his political ambitions ahead of his responsibilities as mayor.

Voters won’t know what kind of leader they have in Summers until they see how he uses his power. Will he appoint under-qualified cronies as department directors? Will he make city government more transparent and accessible to residents? Will he be relentless and innovative in his approach to solving crime and housing problems? Can he avoid political pandering and speak directly and honesty?

Whatever the case, Summers’ absence from council will leave a gaping hole, especially if one factors in the departure of veteran At-Large Councilperson Nickie Antonio. The remaining council members are a wholly unimpressive collection of do-littles whose biggest talent is going along to get along.

Ward 3 residents interested in applying for council appointment to the remaining year on Summers’ unexpired council term must submit a letter of interest and resume by Monday, November 29th.

One final note: Summers’ coronation as mayor was not without a hitch. Unbeknown to many in attendance, there was Ward 3 resident present who at some point made a threatening remark to Summers.

The police media log noted the following:

“Summers is [a] Lakewood councilman. He said [a male] is unhappy with the complaint process and has called Summers several times angry and his anger is escalating. [The male] came to the city council meeting and told Summers he should have kept his mouth shut, and that he would pay.”

A later entry indicated that the male was arrested for aggravated menacing.

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