Mt. Sterling opts not to fill village administrator position

(Posted Dec. 16, 2017)

By Amanda Ensinger, Staff Writer

With new mayor, Billy Martin, at the helm, Mount Sterling village council amended several employee contracts and discussed the 2018 budget.

First up, fiscal officer Courtney Bricker is now the village’s fiscal officer and clerk of council.

“We are not hiring a new village administrator,” Martin said. Referring to Bricker and the work she has taken on since former village administrator John Martin was terminated, he added, “We already have one right here.”

“This new title will also allow me to keep record of legislation passed,” Bricker said. “Originally, when I was hired, I was only hired as a fiscal officer, so I need to become a clerk of council to keep record.”

Council also unanimously approved changing Bricker’s contract to full-time. Originally, she was contracted for 30 hours per week.

“Her pay rate will stay the same,” Mayor Martin said. “I need her here five days a week for 40 hours. There is a lot of work that needs to be done and I need her here.”

As a full-time employee, Bricker can tap into the village’s health insurance and retirement benefits. Her pay rate is $22 an hour.

Despite increasing Bricker’s hours and providing her with employee benefits, the village will save money with the change. According to Bricker, John Martin was paid $65,000 a year as the village administrator.

Also at the meeting, council increased Misty Vance’s contract from 24 hours per week to 40 hours per week. Vance works for the utility department. Now, as a full-time employee, she has access to village health insurance and retirement benefits.

“There is a big problem with everyone in the community not paying their share of the water,” Martin said. “Misty has been dedicated to resolving this issue and, by increasing her hours, we can get this department straightened out.”

Vance’s job is to collect payment on water and sewage use, including collecting on unpaid bills. When Vance started, the village had $19,000 in unpaid water bills. According to village leadership, that number is down to $13,000.

“Moving her to full-time also will allow the payment window to be open five days a week during business hours,” Martin said. “This is something residents have asked for.”

Council also discussed concerns about the money appropriated for the 2018 budget.

“We are in a fiscal emergency because the general fund and the Moving Ohio Forward fund were in the negative,” said council member Rebecca Burns. “As a result of this, we need to be cautious of other funds when we are budgeting for 2018.”

The village was put in fiscal emergency in June 2017 because the general fund was negative $232,537 and the Moving Ohio Forward fund was negative $36,900. Currently, the general fund is positive $9,900. The Moving Ohio Forward fund is still negative.

Because the village is in a fiscal emergency, the State Auditor’s Office can examine the village budgets. According to Burns, the Auditor’s Office discovered, in looking at the proposed 2018 budget, that the street fund will be negative.

As a result, council scheduled a public meeting for 2 p.m. Dec. 13 to make changes to the proposed budget.

Not all council members supported the special meeting, saying the Auditor’s Office is overstepping its bounds.

“The state auditor can’t tell me what to do,” said Lowell Anderson, who returned to his council seat after Martin was sworn in as mayor. Anderson had been serving as interim mayor.

“I’m not going to sit on a board for two years and deal with this because the state auditor can’t get it together. We need to stand up for what is right,” he said.

However, according to Burns, the state auditor has the right to question the village’s budget for as long as they see fit.

“We need to be proactive and show we are taking this seriously,” Burns said. “If we don’t address these issues, they could come in and make decisions for us.”

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