Upper Arlington News

Upper Arlington City Council

Leach steps up as mayor, council president

Frank Ciotola to serve as vice president

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Don Leach and Frank Ciotola
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Two long-time city officials and former mayors have been tapped to lead Upper Arlington City Council in 2013.

Council members on Jan. 14 elected Don Leach to serve as city mayor and council president, and Frank Ciotola was selected as vice president.

Leach, a partner with the law firm Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, served on council from 2006 to 2009, and previously was council president and city mayor from 2008 to 2009.

He didn't seek re-election in 2009, but was elected to council again in November 2011 after running unopposed.

"I am honored to have been elected president of council," Leach said. "Having served as president of council for two of the four years I was previously on council, I feel I have a solid understanding of the role and responsibilities.

"I am excited to be working with a council and city administration that understand how to work together as a team to keep UA a pre-eminent community."

It was a sense of teamwork which led to Leach's election as council president and mayor.

Ciotola, the former owner-operator of DaVinci Ristorante in Upper Arlington for 25 years, currently advises business owners on retirement planning, health insurance benefits, succession planning and estate planning. He served as council president and mayor in 2012 and was in line to do so again this year.

However, after serving on council since 2005, Ciotola and fellow council members agreed to allow Leach to take the leadership reins in 2013.

"I think it's brought council together and helped us to work as a team," Ciotola said. "I knew (Leach) had interest in being president and I thought it would work well to split those duties."

"I want this to be a council that works together and is able to continue to move forward in a very positive way. I think both (Leach) and I hoped to achieve that by splitting our terms, and I think that's helped the whole council."

Looking into this year, both Leach and Ciotola said balancing the city's operations budget in the face of the elimination of the Ohio estate tax and dwindling local government funds will be a major challenge.

According to Upper Arlington City Manager Theodore Staton, the city in recent years typically collected $3.5 million to $4.5 million in annual estate taxes. Of that, $2.1 million was put into the city's annual operations budget, and the balance was spent to maintain city roadways.

That revenue now has been eliminated by the Ohio General Assembly and, according to Upper Arlington Finance Director Cathe Armstrong, the city's share of local government funds has dropped from approximately $2.5 million per year five years ago, to about $1 million in 2013.

Ciotola said council hopes to cut costs for city operations in 2013 so additional taxes won't be necessary -- at least not this year.

"The revenue side of the equation has shrunk considerably, to the tune of about $4 million annually," he said. "Hopefully, we can pick up some of that through new economic development, but we'll be making some tough decisions."

Those decisions likely will involve discussions about city staffing and service levels, Ciotola added. He said council plans to reduce municipal personnel through attrition, but further cuts might be needed in 2013 or 2014.

Alternatively, Leach said the city will look to cut costs by continuing to explore partnerships with other cities to share services, while also seeking to boost revenue by attracting new business to the city.

He said the city would do so by "aggressively pursuing opportunities to collaborate or partner with other public and private entities to provide best value for UA," and "continue to look for appropriate economic development opportunities."

"I am extremely proud and excited about the rejuvenation of Kingsdale which began during my last service as president of council, and will strive to find additional re-development opportunities that will enhance the quality of life in UA," Leach said.

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