After recent restitution payments, Mount Sterling is closing in on its budget deficit to the lowest point yet.
Courtney Bricker, the village fiscal officer informed council Monday night the deficit will soon leave the six figure range.
“Good news, if you [currently] look at the general fund, it shows that there’s a negative of $225,000,” she said. “[With all of the sales mentioned by Village administrator John Martin] I’m getting a total of $199,288 that has been recovered … that leaves us with a negative of $27,211.79 that will be in the red.”
The money has been received from the sale of items taken from the former village administrator, Joe Johnson, who pleaded guilty in March to stealing more than $700,000 from the village through various actions, including early cash-in of benefits and credit card abuse. The funds were used to purchase a house, cars and firearms, among other items which since have been repossessed.
Earlier this month, Johnson’s vehicles were sold for $22,500, more than initial estimates as well as his former Jackson County home for $140,000. Previously, certain records indicated that Johnson had bought the home for $180,000. However, according to the Jackson County Auditor’s website, the sale price for Johnson was $134,000 in March 2016, meaning the village had received more than what Johnson had paid. Also received were $688 in cash and an insurance bond worth $35,000.
Martin said the guns taken from Johnson had sold during the auction two weeks ago.
“The dealer just up and bought all the weapons and said he’ll deal with them later,” he said. “He just bought them for what the quote was going to be, $1,100.”
Martin said he was working on how to dispose of the two illegal weapons. One of them was a stolen Remington Speedmaster, an auto-loading rifle chambered at .22 caliber.
“The insurance company may have already paid for it so it may have to go back to them,” he said. “Unless they write us a letter and say we can go on ahead and keep it, in which case we will sell it.”
The other was a New England 12 gauge shotgun that some say had its barrel illegally shortened, which Martin said he wanted to confirm was illegal with a local ATF office.
The rest of the items are planned to be sold in a garage-sale style event, which is scheduled for Aug. 19, according to Martin’s report.
The village administrator said there is more money returning to the village soon.
“There was a plea bargain in court for Bonnie [Liff, the former clerk] and the plea that was taken was felony-four theft in office with restitution, $21,444.10,” he said.
On Monday, Liff pleaded guilty to count one of her two theft charges, specifically for cashing in paid vacation in excess of what she was allotted.
Despite the other charge being dropped, which was over cashing in sick leave in excess, she will pay back the $21,444 she received through both cash-ins. It will be paid back through her pension account, which according to a press release from the Ohio Auditor of State’s office, had been frozen since her indictment.
Martin said the prosecutor for Liff’s case, Robert Smith, told him when sentencing is complete on Aug. 17 he will be preparing the order for the money to be wired to the village. The check will likely come in late September.
Bricker told council that will close the gap further.
“That leaves us about $6,000 still in the red but that’s not including all the additional garage sale items John was talking about,” she said.
In February, the general fund ended fiscal year 2016 more than $406,000 in the red, stemming mostly from theft by Johnson, as well as what the Ohio State Auditor found to be poor accounting practices.
In June, the village was declared to be in a state of fiscal emergency by the auditors.
Other business from Monday’s Council meeting:
• The veterans memorial funded by the community development block grant is going forward. A contract with Jay Carr Construction has been signed, but the cost limited to what is available in the grant fund. The stone for the memorial was purchased and will take six to eight weeks for delivery, but Martin said it may be sooner.
Martin also mentioned it would not be everything the village had planned for the memorial but that Anderson is seeking $4,000 in donations to ensure it can be the highest quality possible.
• Despite rumors, field soccer is still scheduled at Mason Park this fall. Martin said that the field was still intact and that there was no official announcement of cancellation, only unsubstantiated rumors.
Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617, or on Twitter @msfkwiat.