(Posted Sept. 27, 2022)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
The Ohio State Auditor’s Office is scheduled to release the village of Mount Sterling from fiscal oversight, likely next month. This has been more than five years in the making.
In June 2017, then Ohio Auditor Dave Yost placed the village in a state of fiscal emergency due to substantial deficit fund balances. The deficits were the result of corruption and theft in office on the part of several former village officials and employees, including Joe Johnson, former village administrator, who stole more than $724,000 from the village between 2012 and 2016 to buy vehicles, auto parts, televisions, and other items for personal use. Johnson was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Once placed on fiscal emergency, the village had to develop a plan to eliminate the fiscal emergency conditions with the oversight of a state financial planning and supervision commission. Since then, state auditors have worked with village officials to develop yearly budgets, maintain those budgets, and write audit and policy procedures for the village. The state releases an entity from oversight once the entity has cleared all questions and demonstrated financial stability and the ability to maintain financial stability into the future.
Mount Sterling’s last step before the state can officially release the village from oversight is to pass a five-year financial termination forecast for planning and budgeting. Council did that with a unanimous vote at their Sept. 26 meeting.
“That’s a big deal,” said Andy Drake, council president pro tem and chair of council’s finance committee, about the upcoming release from oversight and fiscal emergency. “Next year will be our first year not under fiscal oversight… I’m looking forward to getting that taken care of.”
Courtney Bricker, Mount Sterling’s fiscal officer, said copies of the financial termination forecast are available for public viewing in the lobby at village hall.
In other village news:
• Council unanimously passed a resolution that would allow the mayor to apply for, accept, and enter into an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency water supply revolving loan account for design and construction of a new 150,000-gallon water tank. Village leaders have not decided if this is the direction they want to go for financing the water tank project. Passage of the legislation just makes it a possible option.
• Village Administrator Tom Byrne recently met with a forester from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to learn more about how Mount Sterling can become a Tree City USA. Byrne plans to attend a tree planting workshop in Plain City on Oct. 5.
• Hydrant flushing will take place the week of Oct. 24.