AUBURN — Township Fiscal Officer Fred May said he has some explaining to do after the county did not approve Auburn’s proposed 2021 budget.

In his report to the township trustees on Monday night, Mr. May said he will be meeting with Geauga County Auditor Charles Walder to explain disparities and carryovers that came up during the township’s hearing with the county Budget Commission earlier that morning. He said the commission did not approve the township’s budget due to Auburn’s alleged overestimating of expenses.

He said two members of the commission, which is made up of Mr. Walder, County Treasurer Chris Hitchcock and Prosecutor James Flaiz, insinuated “that we are overestimating our expenses and we are continuing to have large carryovers that are not necessarily appropriate in their opinion.”

He pointed out, however, that the large disparities were between the budget commission’s report and the township’s proposed budget that he submitted last month. He explained that the commission’s report showed an estimated ending cash balance of about $46,600 in the general fund for 2020 despite the township’s submitted budget showing an estimate of about $272,000.

“What they’re telling me is I estimated we were only going to have $46,000 in the general fund at the end of the year. That’s not the number I submitted in our budget,” Mr. May said. “It’s a pretty big disparity. I’m still trying to track through why they’re coming up with this $46,000 number.

“From what I can surmise from the little time I had to go through this, they’re using estimated numbers from last year to calculate this number from this year instead of looking at my updated numbers,” he continued.

This is likewise for the township’s fire fund, he said, explaining that the commission’s report showed a $15,000 estimate for the ending balance, whereas the submitted budget showed about $127,000.

“These numbers that are on this report for the estimated ending balance are useless,” Mr. May said. “It’s based on prior year estimates. It does not take into account any changes that were made for this fiscal year.”

Mr. May said the hearing was quick and he had little time to understand where the lower numbers were generated in the report at the time.

“It’s very frustrating. You don’t have time to go through all the paperwork in those 10 minutes to explain or try and understand what it is that they’re trying to say, where they’re coming from,” he said.

He added that the commission’s decision not to approve the budget felt political, stating that one of the members, whom he did not specify, uses the hearings to make a statement by telling taxpayers that their communities are overestimating their expenses and rolling over too much money into the next year.

He said while he understands the concern with communities potentially overestimating expenses, he didn’t appreciate being told the township is doing just this when he finds himself determining whether the township has enough money to cover costs of current projects, like the Auburn Community Park pavilion or road improvement projects.

“It’s baffling,” he said of the insinuation. “It makes no sense to me.”

He later clarified that he is not trying to personally attack any members of the commission, noting that they are “good and capable people, I was just frustrated with the process and the report that was used.”

Mr. May said he expects to be able to clear up the situation in a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Walder and then hoped to be able to properly present the budget again to the rest of the commission for approval.

Sam joined the Times in 2019 and covers several communities and schools in the Chagrin Valley and Geauga County. She also oversees the features/community events and the website. She earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from Kent State University.

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