Upper Arlington City Council voted unanimously Nov. 25 to create a 13-member Citizens Finance Review Task Force to review city financial strategies.
The group, which consists of Upper Arlington residents with professional backgrounds ranging from finance to education, is expected to meet for the first time later this month. It will serve as in an advisory capacity regarding matters related to the city's operating and capital-improvement budgets.
"The city is facing significant financial challenges and we thought it would be important and helpful to have a group of citizens look at our finances and plans and advise us on if there are new ideas or different ways to look at things," Mayor and Council President Don Leach said. "We realize we have a lot of expertise in the community.
"We want to involve the public in the process and see if there are things we should be looking at that we haven't."
Each current council member, plus Councilman-elect Kip Greenhill, designated a task force member, and the city also solicited applications from prospective members last month.
Those named to the task force are:
• Rich Simpson, who will serve as chairman. He is dean of Capital University Law School and former managing partner of Columbus law firm Bricker & Eckler LLP. He also led the firm's public finance practice.
• Bill Gable, a certified public accountant.
• Chris Guglielmi, Upper Arlington-area Jimmy Johns franchisee.
• Ted Bernert, a tax attorney with the Columbus law firm of BakerHostetler.
• John Ness, president and chief executive officer of ODW Logistics Inc., a supply chain solutions company.
• Dan McCormick, owner of I'mStayingHome LLC, which provides comprehensive services to keep older adults in their homes.
• Michele Hoyle, former budget manager for the city of Dublin.
• Peggy Concilla, community volunteer and former executive director of Leadership UA.
• Kris Devine, vice president of business and finance at Ohio State University.
• Jack Hershey, associate vice president of government affairs at OSU.
• Marianne Mitchell, an attorney and assistant director of Leadership UA.
• Lori Trent, former teacher and current educational consultant.
• Ron Wigington, a retired executive with American Chemical Society and active member of the Upper Arlington Senior Center.
Leach said the members are volunteers who will not be paid for their services.
Additionally, the task force will have no policymaking or legislative authority.
"What we hope to do is have the group meet once in December and present them with background information about the city's finances," Leach said. "Our hope is they can come back to us some time around March, April or May, but that's ultimately to be determined.
"We are interested in ideas and taking advantage of the expertise in our community."
Although specific task force objectives haven't been established, it's expected the group will examine ways in which to address drops in city revenue caused by the elimination of the estate tax as of last Jan. 1, and the Ohio General Assembly's continued cuts to the Local Government Fund.
According to the Upper Arlington Finance Department, the city received an average of $4.8 million in estate taxes each year, and its share of the Local Government Fund decreased from about $2.5 million in 2007, to roughly $1 million last year.
City Engineer Dave Parkinson last week said Upper Arlington faces substantial expenses over the next 10 years as it tries to catch up with projects to build sidewalks and improve decaying streets, curbs, gutters, bridges and streetlights, as well as stormwater and sanitary sewer systems.
"We just don't have the money today to deliver the (10-year capital-improvement) program," he said Nov. 25.
In establishing the task force, Leach said council members sought to tap into the local base of financial experts, but also attempted to form a committee that is broadly representative of the Upper Arlington community.
"I think we should be grateful so many qualified people stepped forward," he said. "I think we can all be excited about the work they will do."