We don't understand the disconnect between Sandusky city manager Nicole Ard and the city's finance committee.
The finance committee serves the community on a volunteer basis — for free — and the members of it are CPAs and business leaders in the community who have carefully reviewed the city's finances for many years. They have the deepest understanding of the fiscal challenges the city faces more than anyone and have expressed concern that city commission is not hearing their calls for restraint.
The committee refused to sign-off on the 2013 city budget Ard prepared and commission approved in March because, they said, Ard did not provide them an adequate response or a reply to questions they raised. The 2013 budget was considered "balanced" when commissioners approved it, but that balance came by way of the elimination of middle management payroll expenses without any plan as to how city services would continue to be provided without a management team.
With the estate tax revenue the city receives getting eliminated by the state, committee members were not comfortable with the rosy revenue projections Ard's budget is based upon, and they were disappointed she did not respond to their request for a Plan B before the budget was approved by commissioners after a short review.
We understand their concerns but we don't understand why Ard refuses to meet with the committee or why she skipped the last finance committee meeting earlier this month, which was scheduled as a post-audit review of the 2013 budget projections and expenses. Reviewing that would seem to us to be a top priority for the city manager so she can share with commission whether the 2013 budget projections are on target.
Ard has not provided the committee or the community an explanation for the disconnect that's occurred, and she refused to answer questions about it during a city commission meeting June 24. She referred to "a closed section of my contract," as her reason for refusing to respond. We don't understand that, either, and were not aware a public employee's contract could have a "closed section."
It's important, we believe, that Ard take steps to repair whatever rift she has with the committee so that commissioners can be fully informed and make responsible budget decisions. It's important, too, for the majority coalition on city commission and Ard to start showing some respect to the volunteers who serve on the finance committee.
We hope they do that.