GATES MILLS — After several months of studying ways to reduce the village’s $450,000 deficit, the Long Range Financial Planning Commission met to report its findings. The commission identified areas to increase revenue and cut expenditures but taking action on any options would be left to Village Council.

There were three subcommittees: taxation, shared services and expenses and fees, fines and other revenue. The committees were chaired by Councilwoman Ann Whitney, Councilman Chip AuWerter and Councilman Larry Frankel, respectively.

“The intention was not to make recommendations for corrective action but to provide council and the mayor with quantified opportunities. It is for our elected officials to then review the opportunities and perhaps add to the list,” Treasurer Tim Reynolds wrote in his report to council. He was chairman of the commission.

“Then it is expected that council will develop, prioritize, and achieve appropriate action plans that will best balance the diverse needs of our residents with building a sustainable financial structure for the future,” he wrote.

Mrs. Whitney’s committee discussed various sources of revenue through taxation. She said that the village could introduce a new 1-mill or 2-mill levy, which would bring the village $221,041 or $442,082 in revenue annually. There are also options to implement a flat tax per household, increase the 1 percent income tax or decrease the 0.25 percent income tax credit.

“Our income tax of 1 percent is considered to be low among similar communities in northeast Ohio,” Mrs. Whitney said. “We’re in the bottom half for income tax.”

Mr. AuWerter shared the findings from his committee as well. He said that opportunities to share services with other local communities are not realistic or politically feasible right now. The village currently pays about $190,000 annually to Cuyahoga County to operate the wastewater treatment plant. Mr. AuWerter said that there could be a potential savings of about $130,000 if the village switches to an outside contractor. He added that the village could reduce the number of service employees by one. In addition, he noted that there may be opportunities to reduce the amount of overtime pay in the police and service departments.

“It’s such a challenge to man 24/7 – to have two officers on the street at all times,” Mr. AuWerter said.

Mr. Frankel’s committee reviewed fees, fines and other revenue. He said that the village should continue to pursue additional cell towers because they are an important part of the village’s revenue. Estimated income from the cell tower in 2020 is $70,000. Gates Mills also receives video service provider fees from Ohio Bell and Charter Communications. Mr. Frankel said that it is worth pursuing other providers, such as WOW.

He also suggested that the village determine an end date for residents who receive free monitoring from American Security and the village should negotiate a favorable rate for those in Gates Mills who still use their service.

“Currently, the village does pay the resident’s fee for American Security for the security system. It was pointed out that this is the only village or city that pays for residents’ security systems,” Mr. Frankel said.

Council has two work sessions scheduled for Sept. 18 and Sept. 25 at 1 p.m. to discuss the findings of the commission. Both meetings will take place at the Gates Mills Community House at 1460 Chagrin River Road with social distancing, masks and temperature screenings.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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