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

(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.

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