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Ard: This is not fun at all

Andy Ouriel • Dec 19, 2013 at 12:40 PM

A heated and often depressing discussion occurred Tuesday when Sandusky officials contemplated how they’ll eliminate a major deficit heading into March.

As of today, the city’s shortfall totals about $638,000 from a $16.3 million 2014 budget.

The figure doesn’t include about an additional $500,000 to pay six full-time firefighter salaries. A federal grant covering these funds for the past three years recently expired.

State law mandates municipal governments, such as Sandusky, balance a budget by March.

Payroll accounts for up to 80 percent of the city’s budget.

Therefore, some layoffs should occur to offset the red ink.

City officials, however, didn’t decide exactly who or what departments would face setbacks on Tuesday. That decision should happen in the coming weeks.

Here’s what some officials said during Tuesday’s special budget meeting:

“This is not something that has been fun at all” — Nicole Ard, city manager

“We need to have every department head on board. We have gone 100 miles tonight. Perhaps this journey is 1,000 miles. (These proposed cuts) are painful, but the burden needs to be shared. There’s enough room for everyone to play in this game” — Dick Brady, commissioner-elect

City manager Nicole Ard “is going to cut anywhere you direct her to. She will cut the recreation department, fire department, police. The decision is up to her. She can just whack, whack, whack. (But) we didn’t give her any direction. That is the fault of us” — Pervis Brown, city commissioner

“We don’t want to close the greenhouse. We don’t want to lay off policemen. But we have to start somewhere” — Julie Farrar, city commissioner

“We need to embrace the white elephant here. I don’t want to keep kicking the can down the road. We have cut the fat. We have cut the muscle out. Now we are going to have to cut the bone out” — Dennis Murray Jr., commissioner-elect

This deficit and these cuts are “the white elephant in the room no one wants to talk about” — Diedre Cole, city commissioner

“Ultimately most of this cost is in manpower, so what we have to do is decide where we cut people. Unless we find places to come up with additional revenues, for me, we need to make a decision about where to cut. I need for each department head to explain the services they provide, what they are doing with their people and if they are being used effectively. Explain why we should be spending this money” — Wes Poole, city commissioner

“There is a way to figure this out mathematically. But if it means (eliminating) personnel, then that is what it means" — Paul Ricci, fire chief

“We need to start working on economic development. We need to work on bringing in new money. We can’t keep cutting. We need to start making” — Jeff Smith, city commissioner

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