STOW – Council approved the creation of a new committee 6 to 1 at the March 26 meeting streamed live from City Hall. The March 31 meeting was canceled since council approved the budget.
"We’re in a time of crisis and talked about the budget in the last few weeks," said council president Sindi Harrison. "We need to talk about priorities going forward. The committee gives us insight into that."
The new 2020 Oversight Committee will work with Finance Director Jim Costello, she said.
"We want everybody on the same page and talk about our priorities," Harrison said.
Council has a finance committee with chair Jeremy McIntire, Vice chair Harrison and members Mario Fiocca and Cyle Feldman.
Typically the finance committee reviews and approves any spending in the city over $15,000, Harrison said. The board of control approves anything under $15,000 and submits those requests along with higher amounts to the finance committee.
The board of control consists of Mayor John Pribonic, Costello, Director of Public Service Nicholas Wren, Law Director Jamie Syx and City Engineer Jim McCleary.
The new 2020 Oversight Committee has chair Steve Hailer, vice chair Dennis Altieri and members McIntire and Feldman.
The 2020 Oversight Committee has a specialized task to look at income in certain accounts and if they are reduced more than expected, what impact it will have on spending from those accounts, Harrison said.
Hailer will meet with the finance director and come up with a list of criteria of what the committee would like to see, Harrison said. They would share information with the committee if necessary.
The only member of council not on either committee is Christina Shaw, who voted against the creation of the committee.
"The reason I voted ‘no’ was there’s never been an oversight committee in past years for the city of Stow and council," Shaw said. "I reached out to the administration, and they were against the oversight committee. I felt it was micromanaging the finance committee."
The finance committee and oversight committee overlap, she said. There was a rush to get the oversight committee in place.
Shaw asked Harrison who was on the new committee, and Harrison said she would have to wait until after the committee was approved for her to find out who was on it.
"In times like this, if you take your eyes off the ball, things come in the back door," Hailer said.
The oversight committee will look at the wants and needs of the city and have a balanced budget, he said.
Mayor John Pribonic said he froze all capital expenditures.
"We don’t know where we’re going to be," he said. "The July 15 is the new tax deadline and that‘s three months away."
The city doesn’t know how much income tax they’ll receive in the months ahead from what they budgeted. The city receives 12 percent of property taxes.
"There are many unknowns, and we won’t see a clear picture until December," Pribonic said. "It could be longer than that. The city of Stow is strong financially and we want to keep it that way."
"Our role as mayor and finance director is to put out a budget but it’s amazing how much has changed in two weeks," Pribonic said. "Some say they [council] could have accomplished it with the finance committee, but this has more eyes on it."
Pribonic said Hailer was the best choice for the job with his banking experience. They talk nearly daily and are finding ways to help the businesses in town find federal and banking sources for money.
"I’m glad city council is taking a proactive approach to watch how money is spent so we get the best bang for the buck," Pribonic said. "The committee was formed to look over the budget but you want to make sure we keep our businesses and we wouldn’t be doing our do diligence if we didn’t work with chambers to make sure businesses have information they need."
The city of Stow has extended the state of emergency and closures through May 3. All city buildings, the Stow Senior Center, Silver Springs Campground, community and neighborhood playgrounds, basketball courts and tennis courts, rental facilities and shelters, and recreational programs will be closed through May 3.
While visiting parks and using hike and bike trails, everyone is reminded to observe social distancing and allow 6 feet of separation while passing others.
Pribonic encourages residents to call city hall at 330-689-2800 with questions. A COVID-19 update is on the city web page https://stowohio.org with local resources.
For additional information on COVID-19, go to Summit County Public Health hotline at 330-926-5795 or visit the CDC website www.cdc.gov
Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org