Ard: This is not fun at all

Sandusky officials discuss making cuts at special budget meeting.
Andy Ouriel
Dec 19, 2013


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


Simple Enough II

Humorous, they just all figure out they will be short on funds for 2014? Some of the comments are just ludicrous (and I'm not talking about he wannabe musician).
1. Did you give raises this past year? If so how much did they amount to?
2. Maybe you can start assesing fees to those in your wonderful community who consume the most of your safety service resources, like if they have to respond to a call about folks gathering in the streets of like hancock and displaying their firearm shooting skills, well tyreece and jamal get arrested and transported to jail, well that will be $50 each transportation fee each, White trash Harry gets stopped and arrested for aDUI, well There is another $50 for transportaion fee and also $10 for sanitizing the test equipment. Put a coin operated door on the Crapper in each cell, can you say "Cha Ching"!
3. Levy a "consumption tax" on anyone caught with drugs or underage alcohol.
4. Caught selling drugs? Well we will also hit you with not having a vendors license and also sue for not sending in the sales tax and not declaring the proper income for city tax purposes.
5. Hey man, get caught with stolen property or selling it, where is the city's cut for sales tax?

Time those folks setting on council and running your city start doing their jobs "remember they are the ones who told you what a fine job they would do for you folks".


The various statements made are just that: statements. They are not suggested solutions.

I disagree with Commissioner Brown's assertion of "...we didn't give her (City Manager Ard) any direction. That is the fault of us." The City Manager is responsible for presenting a balanced budget proposal. In her role as City Manager, Ms. Ard was required to present a balanced budget proposal that included various reduction options to meet the required budget number. The Finance Committee and Commissioners would review the proposal w/Ms. Ard before rendering a decision. But again, the process should have started with Ms. Ard's proposed balanced budget.

In the short term, Ms. Ard should be leading the balanced budget discussion until Commissioners reach a decision on a balanced budget, which will include direct reductions where needed.

T. A. Schwanger


Thank the lucky stars for term limits.


I think the voters made it clear that they are ousting the non performers of the city commission and replacing them with someone who can do a the job. Next election will they should pick up the rest of the non performers who have wasted so much time at the table and money thinking of their own agendas.

Licorice Schtick

The City Manager seems to be trying to avoid decisions. She should present a balanced budget. If she doesn't, the Commission should direct her to do so. If they can form a consensus on any parameters of that budget, those should be included. If she still doesn't, well...


To help prevent reoccurrences in the future, I’d like to suggest the City Manager (CM) adopt & utilize the following two Key Learnings from the private sector: Keep The Business Running (KTBR)/Keep The City Running (KTCR) and Keep The Business Evolving (KTBE)/Keep The City Evolving (KTBC).

Key components of KTCR would be the CM effectively managing the yearly budget cycle, or developing a comprehensive plan for hiring/training/retaining valuable employees, to name two. Key components of KTCE would be the CM leading the Commission through the process of creating 1-year, 3-year and 5-year strategic roadmaps for the City addressing, for example, how to facilitate operating revenue growth, and how to attract and retain new business that would include job growth and short term (i.e. quarterly) goals with measurable deliverables showing how execution to the strategic roadmaps will be measured. Another key component of KTCE would be Active Risk Management where a Risk Matrix would be created and actively managed, with the Risk Matrix having a scoring mechanism such that the risks identified would be scored as to the probability of their occurrence and the resultant fallout effect, with plans in place to address each of the risk according to their scored risk level. One example of a line item in a Risk Matrix would be the following: “The funding of 6 firefighting personnel, currently supplied by a federal grant, will no longer be available after December 31, 2013.” Probability of that risk event occurring would be 3 out of 3, meaning the score of 3 indicating high likelihood. The fallout effect or “what would be the effect of no more funding?” would probably also score 3 out of 3, meaning the fallout would be loss of 6 personnel available. The CM would then input into the Risk Matrix a plan for how to prevent the Risk from occurring, in this case either identify alternate funding that will be made available or develop a plan with the Commission and Fire Chief to make changes to absorb the loss of 6 firefighters.

The CM needs to manage the City similar to how an Operations Manager manages a business or manufacturing operation in the private sector. This requires being able to work effectively in both Tactical and Strategic roles. It’s not difficult. It just takes someone who can effectively manage and lead.

Simple Enough II

Very good points, but isn't city management her career choice, then she should actually know what it takes to manage a city. Either she can do the job or not, sandusky should not be a training center for future Large city managers. But then again are there some folks on city council micromanaging her job? You hit the nail on the head though with managing. +1.


Commissioners are elected based on campaign promises, people they know, or by default when nobody else runs. On rare occasions, they're elected because of experience, but it's fairly obvious that their resume is the LEAST of the things considered by a pathetic majority of voters!

On the other hand, the City Manager is a HIRED position. Part and parcel of his or her expertise (as in her job description) is supposed to involve preparing and presenting a balanced budget. It's not the Commission's fault Ard couldn't be bothered to do so. It's the Commission's fault it didn't act when Ard FIRST displayed her lack of ability and initiative in that regard!


Wait didnt they just do an extensive performance evaluation and she was doing a fantastic job??? (yes this is full of sacrasm)


I'd like to talk to you a little more about this, OMGreally, but I need to clean up all of the sarcasm dripping onto my keyboard first... :-)


You gave out raises and now you don't have money to cover it.Not real smart,and surprising dumb.You caused this now don't say how sad you are to have to make job cuts.Can anyone on the commission think pass today.


Time for recall election - throw them all out.


Ard should have had a three to five year contract subject to renewal. As it is now, there is no expiration date. In other words, we are stuck with her. If there was a contract term limit, the city could part ways without paying 6 months worth of pay to get rid of her.


Doesn't the City Manager serve at the pleasure of the Commission? Once the initial contract period is over (is it over yet?), can't the Commission do as it wills (assuming, of course, it has the spine to do ANYthing)?


Big problem is the city commissioners as a whole rated Ms. Ard as successful in her recent (last month) performance review. Legally speaking, even with newly elected commissioners, it's going to be difficult to reverse that review and now find her as lacking in her performance, unless the commissioners take the time to outline exactly how Ms. Ard has failed in meeting her documented Goals and Objectives. Ms. Ard's lack of performance in failing to present a balanced budget to the Finance Committee and commissioners is only one area in which she has not met expectations. There will need to be additional documented evidence of multiple areas where Ms. Ard has failed to meet expectations as originally communicated to her should the commissioners want to release Ms. Ard.


“This is not something that has been fun at all” — Nicole Ard, city manager. There are numerous decisions a City Manager has to make, with most not being "fun". Difficult? Yes. But having managed Budgets for years, I never once expected the budgetary process to ever be "fun".

Commissioners-elect Brady & Murray, I have no doubt every manager employed by the City full well understands what needs to be done but is praying no one in their department or under their employ will be let go.

Commissioner Poole, I have 100% conviction each department head can readily explain and defend what each of their people are doing, what the entire department is providing, and how incredibly effective his/her department is given their small staff and funding.

Commissioner Smith: Are you going to kick off & lead a team to, "Start working on economic on bringing in new money."? If so, when? Do you have a timeline in mind? A blueprint for leading this team?

I would further state the elephant in the room is not the Budget shortfall. The elephant in the room is the City Manager not performing in her responsibility to manage the city. Ms. Ard was required to have submitted a Balanced Budget proposal earlier this year. The Budget issues should've already been addressed and resolved.


+ about a million!


"Not fun at all." Do we need anything other than that to get her out of office? She has done absolutely nothing, and has let the burden go to the commissioners. Fast way of cutting $126,000 a year is her salary. Get her out, let the commissioners run the city. We have a better chance of them being proactive, making responsible decisions, and not hiding behind closed doors.




then Sandusky would be able to keep one or two people that actually do want to work for the city and do want to be here for more than to collect an over inflated check

J. Hartman

I have given my opinion in recent days on several different subjects. They were honest, from the heart, and can be backed up with documentation if called upon. Might be a few facts I would add that some of the "smart folks" would rather not be public. Test me cause I'm done with the finger pointing by those who no longer live in the area, but feel the need to tell everyone else what is wrong and (wait a minute, that's right they never respond with a solution) I'm also done with those who once held positions (great idea lets bring the same ones back) who did nothing, but now feel they have the answer. This is my last comment on any issue concerning the city or anything else for that fact in this format. Typing a grand reply or bashing another serves no purpose for any of us. If you feel that strongly about something, make it happen! On a side note I wish everyone a safe and Merry Christmas. If you need me, I will be making a difference through actions as opposed to speaking about making one! S.M.I.L.E. PS, SR, feel free to delete me now.

Stop It

If it was 'fun' they wouldn't call it 'work' and charge you, instead of paying you.


Here is a novel idea. Raise the admissions tax to the approx 8% it is in other areas. Let the tourist who consume plenty of our police,fire and street departments budget help pay for it.


Just finished watching Murray, Brady, Twine on Between the lines.

Will be interesting how they prioritize issues.

+ New City Manager
+ Increase taxes
+ Balanced Budget
+ Layoffs
+ New City Hall
+ "rob Peter to pay Paul"
+ Borrow more money
+ continue paying for demolition of commercial property at taxpayer expense.
+ other
= Cha Ching