City Again Hires Consultant to Assist With Finances

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The city Board of Control this morning approved entering into a new professional services agreement with Michael Abouserhal to assist the city with various services related to its troubled finances.

Abouserhal, a former deputy state auditor and executive director of the Ohio Lottery Commission, will be paid $150 per hour plus travel and mileage reimbursement, up to $25,000. The scope of services provided under the terms of the contract, which runs through June 30, includes but is not limited to assessment of the city’s financial condition, evaluation of the long-term budgetary forecast, and selection of a finance director, as well as other services deemed appropriate by the mayor.   

“He’ll be evaluating the city’s finances in several contexts, No. 1 with regard to the state audit and how to proceed going forward based on what may or may not happen there, and based on the forecast and how the state audit” affects the city budget during the next five, 10 and 15 years, Law Director Jeff Limbian said. He also will look at the potential for reducing services in light of the city’s declining population and tax base, though the law director could not say whether that means downsizing personnel.

The state auditor determined last year that the city inappropriately used money from water, wastewater and sanitation funds to support economic development projects. The city could be required to reimburse those funds about $5.5 million from its general fund.  

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said “continued expert analysis” was required in light of the state audit issues caused by the use of city revenue funds “beyond the express dictates of the Ohio Revised Code” and because of “this mismanagement of past administrations,” according to a news release issued by his office. 

Brown, who is in Washington, D.C. for a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting, did not attend the board of control meeting.

The city, which contracted with Abouserhal last year to assist the city’s finance department and search for a new law director, implemented several of his recommendations, Kyle Miasek, deputy finance director, said. Those measures included closing of a fire station and not filling vacancies created by retirements.

“As we work through that, as people retire, that is the plan, to see if some of those positions’ responsibilities can be absorbed within the current staff,” Miasek said.   

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.