Geauga County Auditor Chuck Walder said Tuesday that members of the Russell Township Park District board did not show up for a scheduled budget hearing Monday with the county.
“It was a public meeting, and we had no one to ask questions about the budget,” Mr. Walder said. “I don’t know why they couldn’t make it. They never asked for an extension.”
The park district did not send anyone to the hearing, and the budget commission rejected the park district’s budget, he said. “They won’t have an approved budget.
“They didn’t come to the table, and the morning of hearing, park board member Dennis Suhay asked to have the hearing the next day (Tuesday),” Mr. Walder said. “The call came in at 11 a.m. and the budget commission was in session,” he said.
It was not possible to get the budget commission together the next day and public notice must be given of the meeting. “They could have come in (previously) to ask to resubmit the budget,” he said.
The budgets were due in July and the budget commission has to submit all completed budgets to the state by the end of August.
“I do not know why they didn’t send a representative to the hearing,” he said. That could have been the park district’s fiscal officer or their legal representative. He added, “We don’t let people ask for more hearings.”
Such hearings are a benefit of the public to hear the information on the budgets, he said. “I think the public has a right to hear them.”
This is the second year the park district will not have an approved budget, Mr. Walder said.
He had questions including that the park district had said a year ago that they had a $30,000 balance, “And yet it was $100,000.”
Mr. Walder also noted the park district is spending an average $40,000 annually on administrative costs, and he questioned who they are paying. “I shouldn’t be guessing when approving their budget.”
His concern is that they will have only $20,000 by the end of 2020, according to the submitted budget’s ending balance.
“What is their plan to stay solvent?” he asked. They have no levies supporting the district. “What’s the plan to survive? If they are spending $40,000 on administrative costs how are they going to stay solvent?” he asked.
“It’s a terrible injustice and it’s a shame,” Mr. Walder said. “Taxpayers of Russell need to know what the plan is to spend their money. Without the park board members being at the hearing, we have all the questions and no answers.”
Park board members Dennis Suhay and Donna Weiss Carson could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Last year, the park district, created under Ohio Revised Code Section 1545 in 1984, decided to lease the township parklands to the Geauga Park District, which is overseeing the parks in Russell.
The park district has three members who are appointed by Geauga County Probate Court Judge Timothy Grendell.