Twinsburg audit results in five recommendations from state

KEN LAHMERS
Correspondent
Kent Weeklies

TWINSBURG – A nearly one-year performance audit by personnel from the Ohio auditor’s office has been completed, and five recommendations have been made to improve the city’s operations and financial situation.

“We appreciate the thorough review of the city’s operations and all recommendations provided by the performance audit team,” said a June 4 city press release. “The city further appreciates recognition of several achievements noted by the auditors throughout the process.”

Police, fire and parks/recreation services were reviewed, and the team also looked at staffing, finances and fleet. The entire report and the city’s response to the five recommendations can be viewed on the city’s website at www.mytwinsburg.com/155/Finance-Department

Here are the five recommendations made by the audit team:

Implement a fee for refuse and recycling collection, which could generate about $1 million annually in new revenue based on fees charged by other Summit County cities.

Officials say the city recognizes that no other city in Summit County provides this service for free, and Council is currently reviewing all financial information and suggestions as mentioned in the performance audit.

Reduce costs associated with shift differential based on peer comparison, which would be subject to contract negotiations.

Officials recognize the shift differential is higher compared to other similarly situated communities. However, six years ago the contracts provided a percentage based shift differential that increases with every incremental wage bump.

The city was able to negotiate the percentage based shift differential and convert it to a flat dollar amount. The administration says it is focused on addressing the disparity in future negotiations.

Reduce employer cost of medical, dental and vision insurance premiums, which would generate significant cost savings. The city should continue to work with its insurance broker to identify opportunities for potential cost savings.

Officials noted the city negotiated no increases in medical, dental and vision insurance premiums for the plan year March 2020 to February 2021, while many Northeast Ohio communities experienced increases of 10% or more. Coverage levels were increased in the dental and vision plans at no higher cost. An employee assistance program is provided at no cost to employees or the city.

Renegotiate minimum manning requirements in firefighter collective bargaining agreements, which could increase efficiency and potentially reduce overtime costs.

Officials said the city continues to work with the International Association of Firefighters to maintain minimum manning while allowing the city to reduce overtime costs. Negotiations for contract years 2020-22 have been in progress throughout the course of the performance audit, with a focus on minimum manning requirements.

Reduce parks and recreation programs and services or increase fees to eliminate general fund subsidies.

Officials point out the city has reduced full-time staff in parks-rec, fitness center and golf course operations. The city is seeking an outside operator for the golf clubhouse’s Aaron & Moses restaurant. Rock the Park concert series ticket prices were increased in 2019, which generated positive revenues.

Summer camp prices also were increased in 2019 to cover the cost of busing for campers. The camp program was self-sufficient in 2019.

A couple of amenities which some residents have cited as being drains on city finances are the golf course and fitness center.

The state auditors’ report shows that in 2019 golf course revenues amounted to $2.1 million while expenditures were $2.6 million. The respective figures were $1.2 million and $1.9 million in 2018, when the clubhouse opened late in the year.

In 2019, fitness center revenues were about $1.6 million, with expenditures at $1.9 million. From 2017-19, expenditures exceeded revenues anywhere from about $250,000 to $450,000 a year.

“Twinsburg offers a high level of service and amenities for its residents, including police, fire, service, wastewater, fitness center, water park, amphitheater, senior center and golf course,” said Mayor Ted Yates.

“During the course of this audit, it was difficult to find communities offering the same level of service. Of the comparison communities, none are as dependent on income tax as Twinsburg is. Council and myself are looking at the auditors’ recommendations and working on a proposal to maintain all of the services and amenities our residents currently enjoy.”

He noted the income tax dependency – 85% of general fund revenue comes from income taxes – is concerning, as income tax can be more sensitive to changes in the economic climate. Given Twinsburg’s significantly lower property tax collections, this revenue source is being reviewed.

The auditors specifically noted that peer cities on average “collect $113 per resident in property and other local taxes for general fund purposes, while Twinsburg does not.”

“As the mayor said, there is no other peer city that offers more amenities to its residents more efficiently,” said Council President Greg Bellan. “Those services, whether residents utilize them or not, make Twinsburg such an attractive place to live.

“However, the scope and efficiency come at a price, and maintaining those services is no longer possible without addressing the revenue side of the equation.”

Concluded Yates, “City leadership will continue to use this performance audit as we strive to provide the highest level of service possible to the residents. Operational efficiencies and a balance between revenue and cost are of the utmost importance.”

Contact the newspaper at 330-541-9433, or twinsburgbulletin@recordpub.com.