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Signs of hope emerging for some financially strapped cities

Posted at 7:04 PM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 19:04:52-04

CUYAHOGA COUNTY — With the State of Ohio ready to roll out phase one of its rebound Friday, anticipation is building for businesses to open back up.
The drastic and sudden reduction in cash flow across Northeast Ohio the last several weeks has created a budget nightmare for cities big and small.
With pressure mounting, municipalities are scrambling to keep employees on the payroll and maintain city services residents rely on.
"It keeps me up at night. Mayors are making tough choices at the local level,” said Tim DeGeeter, Parma Mayor.
So far, Parma has laid off 47 employees to help shore up a $5.5M dollar shortfall. Those workers are scheduled to return in July.
Plans to beef-up staff levels this year are now on hold.
“We were anticipating hiring additional service workers, some recreation workers, some part-time positions,” said DeGeeter.
Right now, DeGeeter, along with mayors from Ohio's 25 most populated cities are lobbying Congress to help soften the financial blow by deploying federal stabilization funds.
“It’s not a partisan issue." It’s not like you’re bailing us out, just try to keep us moving forward. Without it I wouldn’t want to see what the future of our city and other cities look like as well,” said DeGeeter.
For now, DeGeeter is seeing signs of hope.
“People are still getting permits, things are moving. There’s a huge construction project going on at Parma UH, the workers are returning, so it’s great to see those cars in the parking lots,” said DeGeeter.
Over in Berea it’s a similar reality facing Mayor Cyril Kleem.
"Our group in Berea are sharing in the burden," said Kleem.
Kleem said so far they've avoided any layoffs or cut in pay for police, fire and EMS despite the Grindstone City facing a $2M dollar shortfall.
"They can't work from home and so they're the ones most exposed and so the rest of us took a pay cut," said Kleem.
In addition to slashing salaries, the city is pausing purchases and canceling events.
"We have unfortunately shut down the very popular summer concerts and just yesterday closed the swimming pool all in an attempt to make up the shortfall," said Kleem.
The big question in Berea is will the NFL cancel the season?
“It would be devastating,” said Kleem.
The Browns generate 25% of the city's income tax.
"A lot of it is paid during the season, so, so much of this is going to depend on what happens starting in August and September," said Kleem.
With still so much uncertainty, Kleem is focusing on how city staff have responded so far.
"I'm proud of the work that they've all done," said Kleem.

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