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Lora Stillman's Letter to the Editor
Friday, September 24, 2004 6:06:26 PM - Monroe Ohio

I would like to first thank Mr. Cole for his comments and concerns as stated in his letter to the editor (Middletown Journal Sept. 2, 2004).  As one of the four newly elected members of Monroe City Council and the Chairperson for the Finance Committee, I would like to take this opportunity to respond and to share some information.

 

Mr. Cole’s biggest concern seems to be the inability of Council to control spending.  The issue for the City is that the money has already been spent and now we have to find a way to pay that bill.  We have no choice but to pay for the city building, fire stations, and Rt.63 improvement.  It’s the responsibility of the Monroe City residents to decide if they want employees within the city limits to pay an increased income tax.  If there is not an increase in revenues, a decision will need to be made as to which services will be further reduced or even eliminated.

 

After determining there was a financial shortfall in 2003, the Acting City Manager, Bill Brock, (who has since been hired as the City Manager) and the Acting Finance Director, Jay Stewart, reduced expenditures by about 10% below budget.  They created a reasonable budget for 2004 that allowed for expenditures to be flat to 2003 and they have been able to keep the spending within that budget.  However, there are large debt repayments coming due in the next few years for which the City does not have the necessary money.  Mr. Cole had asked about whether things are getting better and mentioned that the City had been placed on Fiscal Emergency.  We will remain on Fiscal Emergency until we can meet certain requirements put forth by the State Auditor.  This includes being able to reduce the negative fund balance to an acceptable level.

 

In reference to Mr. Cole’s question about what is included in the “Other” section of the Revenue Distribution pie chart (referencing the May/June 2004 Monroe Messenger).  This is comprised of many items such as training, utility payments, communications (postage, phones, etc.), office equipment rental, and insurance and bonding, just to name a few.

 

Oh, I must state that Mr. Cole is incorrect in claiming that the former City Mayor, Mike Morris, has a place of responsibility on the Finance Committee.  As the committee chairperson, I can attest to the fact that Mayor Morris is not on the committee.  However, he did volunteer to assist the City by serving on the Park Board.  Unfortunately the City has no discretionary income, so the Park Board does not have much business to conduct.

 

In response to Mr. Cole’s concerns about the Water Department, they do continually test our water quality.  As explained in the letter to our customers, one area of testing was not sampled often enough.  The area of testing was not a health concern and the issue was rectified by adjusting the testing schedule.  Also, the Consumer Confidence Report has been mailed to the residents for the past four years as mandated by the EPA and is paid for out of the Water Dept. revenues.

 

I would now like to express one of my concerns.  When elected to Council, I stated a desire to improve communication between the residents and the City Administration.  We implemented posting the Council meeting agenda on the City website prior to the meetings and posting the meeting minutes on the website once the minutes have been officially approved at the next meeting.  We initiated Informational meetings for the residents to come and talk to us in an informal setting.  Unfortunately attendance was so low, with the exception of the meeting held at Mt. Pleasant Retirement Community, that we cancelled the final meeting.  Finally, public attendance at the Council meetings (held at 6:30pm on the 2nd & 4th Tuesdays of each month) is disappointingly low.  There are a couple of regulars plus an occasional news reporter, however I do not feel having only five people show up is acceptable.  Council has had some very detailed and insightful discussions during the meetings.  I am sorry to say that some residents have wrong information about City business because they believe what is told to them by persons who have not even been at the meetings.  I encourage anyone with questions to contact the City Administration by phone (513-539-7374), email (website: www.monroeohio.org), or in person.  The City Offices are open Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm.  Copies of the budgets are available for review and the Administration is available to answer any questions in more depth.

 

I hope this helps to answer questions, address concerns, and clear up misinformation.  Again, we always welcome input from the Monroe residents and ask everyone to become more involved in THEIR CITY.

 

Sincerely,

Mrs. Lora Stillman

Monroe City Council

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