Balancing act: Ard's budget cuts are notes with no detail

Sandusky officials found a way to balance the city's $16 million budget without laying off any workers. But how they accomplished such a feat remains a mystery, leaving many skeptical about the process.
Andy Ouriel
Mar 25, 2013

The seven city commissioners are set to approve the 2013 budget at Monday's public meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. at City Hall, 222 Meigs St.

A balanced budget, though, seems puzzling, given city finance director Hank Solowiej in November presented a preliminary 2013 budget to officials forecasting a $538,000 shortfall.

Then, two weeks ago during a budget meeting, city manager Nicole Ard provided a list totaling $2.2 million in cuts possibly occurring by 2014.

The proposed cuts, a measure to offset shrinking income sources, would affect up to 27 jobs, including police officers and firefighters.

Despite the situation, city officials did balance the budget by using math without detail.

The final calculations concluded this past week, when Ard gave Solowiej a piece of notebook paper with handwritten budget cuts across city departments. For instance, she listed a $40,000 reduction in the city engineering department without any explanation as to what engineering services would be cut. 

She did not provide Solowiej any direction. The city charter and Ard's contract indicate she's responsible for all aspects dealing with the budget.

Click here to look at Ard's balance sheet. Get Saturday's Register for more on the budget, the process and hear what critics have to say.

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Comments

PaulYall

She must do her budget cuts like clipping coupons! $.50 cents here..$1.50 there

gene44870

If she did balance the city budget , then why question the way she did it ? after all she was hired to do this and she is just doing what she was hired to do .. Just be glad she was able to do just that

arnmcrmn

I just cured cancer. Don't ask me how I did it, just accept that my words are good enough. That basically sums up this balanced budget.

gene44870

God only knows we dont need to lose anymore police or fire .I personally think she did a heck of a good job with the way times are today

Darkhorse

The peice of paper is poor at the most. I expected better then this from a city manager who gets paid more then $120,000 a year. The scrap piece of paper tells us nothing about how she balanced this budget. If the commissioners rubber stamp the budget without asking some serious questions of her, they all deserve to be booted out. She needs to justify the cuts and where she cut and why.

KnuckleDragger

Actually it shows she wasn't prepared. She likely hastily scratched it out an hour before the meeting. Her last job amounted to nothing more than bringing coffee to, and being a gopher for the actual city manager. The commission turned away several qualified applicants in order to a glorified secretary. Another failure of affirmative action.

Darkhorse

She can't just say she balanced the budget without showing us how she did it. If she can't prove her balance sheet, the city needs to reconsider her employement because without that verification and proof, she could tell you anything and we are to believe her? She probably thinks she has the whole year to balance like she did last year, not so.

SamAdams

If all I had to do was pencil things in — "save $25 a week on groceries," "spend $100 less on clothes" — I could LOOK like I was saving money just like Ard. The problem, though, is that all I've done is written those things down. What if I don't usually spend more than $100 a month on clothes? How am I saving anything? And what if my grocery budget is one of the few things I've done right and there's not $25 in wiggle room there?

Am I saving $200 extra dollars a month? Nope. All I did was write it down. No explanation, no visible process, no nothing. And you'd be impressed by that if I presented it to you? Really?

KURTje

Wonder how long she (Ard) will work here?

margaritaville88

She should not have ben hired in the first place!! Who is giving her orders, because she is just a puppet !! I could do better with my eyes closed!! But don't tell me I should apply...I am too busy running my own Sucessful business and do not want her or the blind commisioners ruin it in the process!!!!

KnuckleDragger

I hope your business is in the township or they will certainly try their best to ruin it.

Unassumer

Budget proposals and cuts are not written on notebook paper. That's for homework, which it looks like Ard had better start doing.

KnuckleDragger

Apparently she didn't learn how to use spreadsheet software or develop a powerpoint presentation in her previous job of glorified secretary to the city manager. The way this was presented shows that either she has no idea of how to put together a presentation or she threw this together an hour before the meeting without preparation. Either way, it smells of incompetence.

dontknowmuch

What a hoot! Hope Sandusky taxpayers aren't buying her scrap paper work.

Mum-of-One

Math is a wonderful thing!

huronguy

This is a joke right? sandusky will never be the great city it used to be.

trafficman

Numbers dont lie.... Only people do!

2cents's picture
2cents

(by using math without detail)

I trusted in Worldcom as well for some retirenment.

http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/...

BW1's picture
BW1

And to think how many people, commissioners included, thought she was the greatest thing since sliced bread when she was chosen. When, oh when will city councils, school boards, and other appointing bodies get over the siren song lure of the out of town "rock star?"

pavedparadise

Was this piece of paper found floating around in the tennis courts area next to City Hall?

lifetimeresident

@Kurt
The guy under the tree downtown. A reliable source he says. Says she is going to take over at the school at perkins. The guy there has had enough of the cheap people that wont pass a levy. I take his info as 50-50.

Darkhorse

Maybe Ard is hoping the commissioners will not look at the budget very closely and they will give her a passing grade as last time. Most of the commissioners don't do their homework or ask enough questions to even know what is going on around them. They take Ard's verbal word that she has balanced the budget, that is not good enough. The ultimate responsibility belongs to the commissioners to verify that the balance budget is legitimate and not a fantasy. If you look at the notebook paper budget, it looks like some of the budget items haven't even been confirmed and it looks mostly like expenses rather then cuts. It appears she is still looking for the money for the items she has on the list. The commissioners' budget committee only met once and never came to any conclusion of what needed to be cut. The Finance Committee only met once and cancelled the other session out never approving the the balanced budget. How did Ms. Ard throw all this together in a couple of weeks time without ever finalizing her budget to the Finance Committee or ever meeting again with the commission until they did giver her direction on some kind of cuts?

Now The Rest of...

If Ms. Ard had the Register on speed dial like some politicians she would get better press coverage.

Bess

This is not a matter of Public Relations. This is all about good government, transparent government.

Bess

SUBSTANCE OVER FORM. The Ard crib notes are not a budget and if the Commissioners pass on this they should all be fired. Where did her numbers come from? It appears they are all wild a.. guesses, are they? Is there substance? Why these questions are not asked and reported is beyond me.
The issue that is supported by the reporting is form. Even an annotated spread sheet would project more professionalism than these crib notes. Why is it Nicole Ard did not hand these crib notes to her finance director for incorporation into the formal budget? Presumably, there is more than one fund. Are these cuts all from the General Fund or are others affected? There are many more questions here than answers.

JERRY from SANDUSKY

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with the size of our town management is way over paid....
Its about time to get in there pockets why do we never see that...
let them work some place else..
you take away from the community take away from them..
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KnuckleDragger

After all this time, and with all the questions surrounding the competence of Ms. Ard, is there any question in anyones mind that this hire was not based on qualifications but on affirmative action? Good luck firing her for her incompetence. The city commission is in the position that if she was fired she would not only file a lawsuit based on her race and sex, but also wrongful termination. After all, they haven't even done an evaluation on her. Without an evaluation, they will have trouble firing her without it costing the city taxpayers alot of money.

SamAdams

I don't agree with 100% of what you say, KnuckleDragger (heck, I don't agree with ANYbody THAT often!), but you couldn't be more right. Having met the short list of Manager candidates, and having reviewed their qualifications and talked with them, it's my opinion that Ard was on the short list for the same reason she was hired: It would look good.

Really? How good does it look NOW, City Commission, eh? Should've hired the most qualified person (who, unfortunately, happened to be both white—strike one—and a guy—and there's two). We'd be well on the road to getting things straightened out in this City, I'll bet, if you had!

Unfortunately, I also agree that firing Ard would probably result in a lot of accusations (none of which are necessarily true, of course, but they don't need to be to cost the City a lot of money). Isn't there some mechanism in the hiring process that says a failure to perform by meeting those measurable goals y'all keep talking about is cause for termination? If there is, for god's sake, USE IT! If there isn't, for god's sake, PUT IT IN THERE FOR NEXT TIME. Which, by all appearances, is coming soon...

trafficman

Problem is, there is no paper trail to support her firing. She STILL hasn't had an evaluation, which is long overdue. There are ways to do a termination right so that no matter what lawsuits would arise out of the termination, it would stand up in court.

SamAdams

...and in a separate comment directly to the Register staff:

Why do you keep using the same godawful picture of Nicole Ard? You KNOW where she works. Go get a decent one and then USE it! This one's old. It's been enlarged too much so it's blurry. It's horribly unflattering (or maybe that's intentional on your part?). Oh, yes, and it's OLD.

pavedparadise

Maybe she is camera shy. Or, if you were being rightfully hammered by the Register, would you agree to being photogenic?

The Bizness

It is intentional. This rag does all it can to make whoever they are attacking look bad.

Darkhorse

The commissioenrs made a big mistake by not evaluating her when she was supposed to be evaluated. She was supposed to be evaluated per the contract on her anniversary date and that time has come and gone by three months. Are the commissioners in breach of her contract? There is no documentation to set the stage of taking any action on her. The commissioners need to evaluate her ASAP! What ever happened to the consultants who were to come and evaluate her during her first year and report back to the commissioners the results of whether or not she met her goals? The consultants didn't follow through with what they were supposed to do and no one was watching the contract to mandate they follow through with their contract obligations. They reported to Hamilton instead of the commissioners as a whole instead of giving a written report of their findings to the whole commission instead of just the president.

Mum-of-One

Nobody knows how to seek qualified candidates let alone "evaluate" employees. If the City Manager can submit that scribble for a scheduled meeting, god help us all!

Fireside

Smitty and weird mama will handle it. I have faith!

wiredmama222

Sorry folks, I had a massive heart attack on Feb 23rd and I haven't been around to keep up with what has been going on around here. I see the "hang Ard" group is alive and well. What has she done now? Oh, balanced the budget has she? And she hasn't explained it to all of you yet? Oh, and you want to suck her blood for it? What, no new taxes? No cuts? WOW!!! I bet you are all just drooling for the chance to kill her by now. Right? What, she didn't ask permission? She didn't grovel at your feet? What's the problem?

Did she embarrass all those wonderful people who were jumping up and down spreading fear in citizen's hearts that we were doomed for higher taxes....they were sure based on some 2009 dooms day records or some such nonsense????? She disappointed you??? I am sorry. And she hasn't explained how she is going to do this, right? Am I nearly right? Oh, come on now? You can't get rid of her because she did two things correctly. She named your favorite boy as police chief and she balanced a budget. NOW what?

So now what are you going to use to get rid of her? She's overweight? She isn't smiling enough? You will have to wait until Monday night for her to explain what she is doing? WOW, that's a bad problem. How sad. Bet it's killing you. It's not killing me. I don't care how she did it.

I think it's pretty good. And I bet the commissioners vote it in within 20 mintues .....even Hall and Poole won't kick. They won't care either.

And the people who do.....Goodness knows, they will be standing there trying to explain why they are kicking about a BALANCED budget. How stupid will that be?

SamAdams

Wiredmama222:

I disagree with your assessment on Ard, but I'm glad you're recovered enough to read and write here again! Welcome back.

wiredmama222

Thank you, Sam. The helicopter ride isn't something I EVER want to take again. Lifeflight guys are a phenom...really. And I must say they are a "trip" to be around. LOL. Pleasant and reassuring people. I do have to say when someone asked me what the "view was like from the chopper" I just stared at them thinking they must be a little nuts! First of all, I couldn't see anything, and secondly, I couldn't have cared less. LOL

I am not saying that Ard is correct on all that she does. I do have the feeling that she has gotten the raw end of a stick like that old saying "the sun doesn't shine on the same dog's arse every day". But she hasn't seen a ray of sunshine since she got here! I hate that for her. When the commissioners picked her, what were they looking at? I would really like to know? They made this bed and we all have to sleep in it, and now we hear nothing but complaint after complaint. Why is that? Just exactly what has she done that is so wrong?

She doesn't give the SR their news stories when they want them?

She makes decisions that some of the commissioners don't like?

She does her job and doesn't explain things to the SR or the commissioners until she feels like it?

And she has to put up with two commissioners in particular going behind her back trying to sabotage everything she does and making trouble for her!

So I guess I don't get it. Maybe I am not supposed to. I do know that the commissioners are no prize either. There are as many as FOUR on there that are not keepers, that need to go NOW. They are not capable of doing their jobs: that are sneeky and underhanded. That are giving things to people that are NOT on the commission to do things, that if they were to be found out, the citizenry would probably lynch them in the town square.

But most of the townfolks will never hear about it....they lie that well and they are protected by very powerful (or they think they are) folks.

What a shame. And poor Ard is going to go. The handwriting is on the wall. These people are seeing to it. Just count the days. I give it two months tops.

pavedparadise

@Wiredmama

Sorry to hear of your misfortune.

Like a primetime TV Soap Opera where you can turn it off and come back two months later and you don't miss a thing, same holds true for your writings. You have some catching up to do. Sandusky continues to move backward by the minute thanks to the top of the food chain at 222 Meigs Street. Under Ard's (lack) leadership, there's too many Indians and not enough chiefs to set priorities in vital departments thanks to employees quitting or being fired and her taking forever to fill vital vacancies.

wiredmama222

@pavedparadise: who quit? who got fired besides the guy who fudged reports? I know about the new chief (congrats to him but why did the city waste all that money if they were going to give it to him anyway?), and what else went on?. Suppose, since you know all, you fill me in. You seem to know, so tell it all will ya? LOL

richrs

@ Wiredmama,
Glad to see your back and on the road to recovery!

wiredmama222

Thank you,richrs. That is very kind of you.

25yr.resident

I trust what this newspaper says about how things are done as much as I trust Mitt Romney to take over a business. Handed in her cuts on a piece of notebook paper and the commission accepted it? Yeah. Okay. Give it to 'em mama. The good 'ole boy network is starting to implode.

SmokingGunn

Nothing wrong with the raw form she used, just she needs to re-type it indicating how these cuts effect the public. Give the woman a break, at least she saved a few jobs and balanced the budget. More than most can or have done. Pay attention Perkins!

Cityslicker

I can't believe how many people on here think that page is the only writing for a budget. It's no wonder that officals in this area are so reluctant to give any info to the SR. If any of you that are so concerned don't attend the meeting tonight and get the facts, it's your own fault. Everyone is in a head hunt again over some petty little thing.

The Bizness

Budgets can be brought into the black without cutting much, if anything. It all depends on where money is put and how money is used.

wiredmama222

cityslicker...you just wrote exactly what the upset is....someone didn't get the answer they wanted and all holy H broke lose. If some people don't hear what they want to hear, it becomes a big deal around here. That means if they don't know FIRST...half this town....then their collective noses cry out "government transparency" like a high school cheer or something. They cannot wait for a meeting or what others consider a proper time, they want it BEFORE a meeting, not during, not after but BEFORE anyone else gets to see it. Like a little kid who can't wait until the big day. They stomp their feet in protest. "I am first, I am first." Like they are ENTITLED to information before anyone else. (says who?). Geeze, how bad does this have to get before it stops? No one will EVER be good enough to fill this job until they give certain people what they want like a puppet on a string. How sad is that.

arnmcrmn

Your post is spot on with your entire thinking. I'm sure you think Obama and him not producing a budget in 4 years is justifiable as well? You reek of hypocrisy. If this would have been a Republican or an NRA member and they threw together a budget that consists of sticky notes, eraser marks and math that doesn't add up, you and coasterfan and little pooch would be on here ranting all day about how crooked this is. When you hold a position that is funded by tax dollars you have to do your job and provide answers that make sense and are detailed. The days of,....... Just take my word, we are good........are done and over with. Oh the hypocrites on this forum. Now go in wired and tell me how good of a job she is doing.....DERP!!!!!!!!

wiredmama222

You trying to equivocate Obama with anything going on in this city or with me is just silly. I have stated repeatedly that I hate the party system so your confusion over trying to classify me as either a Democrat or a Republican is not only funny, its down right appalling.

As for what I have said, I still maintain, and will continue to do so, that many people are disappointed that Ms Ard apparently presented a balanced budget without an explanation on how she did so and that just rankled feathers to no end....including yours. Why that is just amazes me. It seems for most Sanduskians it is easier to dislike this lady than give her credit for something she does right.

The yell around here is "transparent government" which seems to mean "explain yourself to OUR liking" without us having to think about things means just that....explain it. No one wants to have to THINK about anything, they want it explained, and right NOW in so much detail. That is what I said, and that is what I meant. If that makes me a hypocrit, then so be it.

The woman shows up with a balanced budget so lets hang her because that isn't what was supposed to happen. She has a fiduciary responsibility to watch our money and watch how it is spent. It appears she is doing that. I don't think she has to explain it to the Nth degree to everyone. Show me where it says that in the city charter or by State laws and I will say you are right!

She was supposed to raise the taxes, make our lives miserable and lay people off! Wasn't that what was expected? That's what we have all been reading about in the paper. So that makes ME the hypocrit? How does that figure? How am I the hypocrit? Because I remember what was written and what was said? Because I defend the underdog? Ok, so I am the hypocrit. Because I cannot stand the mob mentality going on in this city? Because I can't stand to see people ganging up on ONE person without just cause? Then yes, I am the hypocrit.

And by the way.....I didn't vote for Obama, nor did I vote for the Republican candidate either....I wrote someone in. And since my vote is MY business and not yours, I don't feel the need to tell you the name of the person I wrote in. That is my right as a citizen. I suppose that makes me a hypocrit even more. Frankly, I don't care.

As far as you and your NRA buddies go, some of them are so far off the beam, they need help. But that's their problem. If you like dealing in fear instead of fact, then by all means join them.

It's your right to feel as you do, no matter how off the mark you are.

Mum-of-One

My grocery list is more detailed than the city budget.

arnmcrmn

I ran the 100 yard dash in 5 seconds. Proof? My word. That equals this budget.