LIBERTY - With a windfall in tax revenues and cost-cutting efforts, Liberty officials said they have resolved budget woes dating back five years and satisfied state auditors who questioned the township's ability to maintain itself.
At a special meeting Wednesday, trustees passed a resolution "to cure" findings of state audits for the years 2008 through 2011. Administrator Pat Ungaro said Thursday that the township also received notice from the state this week that it was in "fiscal caution."
However, that was before the township informed state auditors that the township is now operating in the black, he said.
"That was basically a weak form of the state saying fiscal emergency," he said. "But it all happened at once. As we were meeting to clean up and clear everything the state was notifying us at the same time that we were in fiscal caution. But right now everything is settled and paid in full. We are in the black."
A report released by the State Auditor's Office in April called into question the ability of the township to continue maintaining itself. However, in August township officials reported that recent efforts had already fixed many of the problems cited.
At the time, Ungaro called the report an "exaggeration," pointing out that the current trustees were not even in office during the years audited by the state, fiscal years 2010 and 2011.
He said the township did everything the state wanted done and is now in full compliance.
For example, trustees voted unanimously in April 2012 to transfer the 911 service to the Trumbull County dispatch center in Howland saving the township about $270,000 a year. The township had been spending $330,000 annually on its own system but now pays the county 911 just under $60,000 a year, Ungaro said. Additionally, the township received about $400,000 in state tax revenue.
The resolution passed Wednesday states "the township is now in possession of adequate funds" in its general fund "to make the Appropriate Fund Transfers to correct and Cure the Audit Finds."
Trustees authorized the fiscal officer to make several fund transfers and adjustments that had not already been made to bring the township into full audit compliance for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
The state called the township to task for what it determined were forbidden accounting practices, such as when township officials took money from the fire fund to pay police salaries four years ago.
Ungaro said that this week the township was able to close out the the $250,000 originally owed to the fire department by making a final payment of $20,000 from the general fund.
Additionally, money from the police fund, which still owed the fire fund $15,000 from an original debt of $205,000, was moved to the fire fund.
The general fund also paid its debt of $100,000 to the fire fund.
Ungaro previously explained that the accounting practices, while technically forbidden by state law, were mandatory to sustain the departments and previous auditors were always aware of the transfers. Yost, who called the moves into question, became auditor in November 2010.
Trustee Jodi Stoyak said balancing the township's accounts is a "huge relief."
"We have done everything we can to to correct and eliminate debt in all departments and now we are in the black. We have addressed all of the findings that the state auditors gave us. Through attrition and reductions we've made cuts. We are lean but it's what we have to be to exist," she said.
"We had some difficulty dealing with these issues at first but we were very fortunate to get some state money that was the amount we needed."
She said township officials have some remaining questions for state auditors regarding various funds.
"We will be looking at ways to address these issues in the future," she said.