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home : local news : local news August 21, 2017

3/14/2017 3:53:00 PM
Councilman Queen asks for AG's opinion on Jackson city utility fund transfers
Concerned that the city may be acting contrary to state law regarding the transfer of utility funds to the General Fund, Jackson 2nd Ward City Councilman Ron Queen has asked that the city request a legal opinion from the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

Making his request at Jackson City Council's meeting of Monday, Feb. 27, Queen cited two sections of the Ohio Revised Code {state law} which suggest such transfers of utility funds, in the form of cost allocations and rents and rights-of-way reimbursements, are not legal. He requested the city seek clarity on the matter by seeking an opinion from the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

Queen has expressed this concern previously and has voted against the ordinances authorizing the transfers.

In recent years, council has approved ordinances approving cost allocations which reimburse General Fund operations for services provided to the utility departments and also rents and also reimbursements charged to the utility departments for rents and rights-of-way.

Holzer Medical Center

These transfers have provided a significant portion of the funds needed for General Fund operations, which includes the police department and other administrative departments. City officials have pointed out in the past the transfers have been allowed by the state auditor's office in regular audits.

City Auditor Brett Reed repeated this point and stated that the Maximus reports regularly conducted by the city provide the necessary documentation to justify the transfers and this has proved acceptable to the state auditor's office. He added that he has never seen anything which states the city can't make these transfers. Mayor Randy Heath stated that the transfers should actually be referred to as "justifiable assessments."

Reed also commented that if the city could not make these transfers, it would "bankrupt the city," a reference to the fact that it would leave the General Fund greatly underfunded.

After hearing Queen's request, Law Director Joe Kirby suggested that it might be more appropriate for the request to come from the entire council rather just one councilman. He also noted that an attorney general's opinion, even if one were issued, would not have the force of law.

Council President Eric Brown requested that Queen put his request in writing and specifically cite the sections of state law and bring it back to council and that it would be looked into.

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