Cuyahoga County Council Year End Review for 2017 from Councilman Dale Miller

The below is an update provided by Cuyahoga Councilman Dale Miller

Dear Friends,

Best wishes to everyone for a happy, healthy, and prosperous year in 2018.  I’m writing to provide a brief summary of major events at County Council in 2017.

  1. The Federal government instituted a policy change which has the result that Cuyahoga County will lose $27 million per year in sales tax on Medicaid Managed Care (MCO) organizations. This is about 7% of our General Fund budget.  The State of Ohio did provide transition assistance that will replace the lost revenue for a little over a year.
  1. We responded by passing a leaner two year budget for 2018 and 2019 that starts the process of adjusting to lower revenue. Much of the reduction achieved is by planning not to fill many vacancies.  We hope this can be accomplished without impacting services but that remains to be seen. The budget included no new taxes for operations, but we did implement the State of Ohio’s authorization to add $5 to the license plate registration fee to provide additional funding for roads and bridges.
  1. We passed legislation to provide for renovation of the Q Arena and extension of the Cavaliers Lease by 7 years through 2034. The project is funded jointly by the County, the City of Cleveland, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, and the Cavaliers with no increase in taxes. Much of the public funding is from revenues generated by the Arena itself that cannot be used for most other purposes.
  1. The County created its first Comprehensive Health and Human Services Plan. The Plan reiterated our commitments to early childhood education, infant mortality prevention, and workforce development.  The Plan also envisioned stronger efforts on opiate crises response, lead based paint abatement, and diversion of people with mental health and addiction disorders from the criminal justice system.  Finding funding for these expanded efforts will be a significant challenge over the next few years.
  1. The County started implementation of the $25 million Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. The ERP system is a broad information technology upgrade that will replace old financial, procurement, and human resources systems that don’t talk with each other with a single integrated system.  This system will also automate many processes currently being done by hand.  The system has the potential to enable operational savings of millions of dollars per year, but the implementation and operation are complex and it has to be done right to realize the full benefit.
  1. Problems came to light late last year as a result of findings from our own internal audit department. Questions were raised about the incentives provided to new high-level employees being hired by the county and to hourly payments made to salaried employees who worked time in excess of their normal work week.  Media suggestions that money was wasted are overblown.  The county received services for money spent; and alternative approaches may well have cost as much or more.  However, it does appear that the administration implemented policies without Council approval that should have been spelled out in personnel policies approved by Council.  Legislation to address these issues is being prepared.  I do believe that high level executive compensation bonuses should be scaled back and that compensation to salaried employees for extra hours worked should only occur under exceptional circumstances personally approved by the County Executive and subject to review by Council.
  1. The Council passed legislation on the May 8th ballot to renew the Health & Human Services Levy for two years with no increase in the tax rate. This levy is vital for continuation of our many health and human services programs, so I strong recommend a favorable vote. The County has two HHS levies so that we do not risk putting all of the funding on the ballot at the same time. Passage of this two year levy will align the ballot timing so that in the future, we can place an HHS levy on the ballot once every four years, each being for eight years, as opposed to the current every other year schedule.
  1. At the last County Council meeting we welcomed Michael Houser as our newest Councilperson. He replaced Anthony Hairston, who was elected to Cleveland City Council.
  1. Save the date and mark your calendar for our FREE annual Ice Cream Social. It will be on Wednesday, June 6th from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at the Lakewood Women’s Pavilion at 14532 Lake Avenue.

Thanks very much for the opportunity to serve as your County Council person.  If I can be of assistance, please contact me at damiller@cuyahogacounty.us or 216-252-7827.

Sincerely,
Dale Miller

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