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Archive | March, 2016

Village Budget Explained: Village Administration and Finance

Village Hall WebChagrin Falls has a hybrid Mayor/Village Administrator/Council form of government. Council forms the legislative branch of government whose sole administrative function is approving variances to the zoning code. The administrative branch consists of a part time Mayor as the Chief Executive who oversees all departments.

The Mayor sets policy to guide the general operation of the Village while the Village’s Chief Administrator (CAO) is responsible for the day to day operations of the Village. The street department, building department and the two Village owned utilities report to the CAO. The Law Director, Engineer, Finance Director, Police and Fire Chiefs and the CAO report to the Mayor. In addition to the supervisory responsibilities, the CAO is responsible for overseeing the preparation of legislation for council action, all village contract bidding and purchasing and initial determination of application of the village zoning and building codes. Last year the building inspector conducted 50 investigations of complaints of zoning and property maintenance, 364 building inspections and oversaw 75 ARB submissions.

The Village Administrator’s major jobs include analyzing the operations of the municipally-owned utilities, and making recommendations to Council and the Mayor concerning all charges and rates for these services. He works closely with the Village Engineer to make recommendations concerning all new construction, maintenance and replacement of existing facilities and equipment, and planning of future operations of the utilities. Service-related responsibilities include overseeing the construction, improvement, repair and maintenance of all public streets and alleys, public buildings, drains, ditches, storm sewer facilities, parks, playgrounds, and public places.

The CAO is also responsible for overseeing all village purchases and providing back office support for all the village’s various departments. All contracts in excess of $50,000 are competitively bid and all purchases over $5000 are based upon competitive quotes. This system recently saved the Village $140,000.00 in garbage collection fees alone. As a practical matter almost all of the villages purchases are price shopped or acquired via state or county master purchasing agreements. In addition the CAO is responsible for the economic analysis of whether it is more economical for the village to provide a service directly or to purchase the service from a third party. This process has resulted in the village contracting out the grass cutting in the cemetery vs. assigning this job to village employees. This resulted in the elimination of one full-time village employee and a net savings of $ 63,000 per year. The village’s administrative staff consists of a staff of five: Mayor, CAO, building inspector, administrative assistant and utilities billing and support person. The budget of all the village administrative functions is $300,000.

The Finance Department is headed by a Director of Finance and one full time and one part time employee. The Director of Finance is responsible for all finance, payroll and accounting matters of the Village, including health care administration. In addition the Finance Director works closely with other departments and prepares any financial analysis requested by the departments or the council. The budget for the village finance department is $258,000.

Statewide Tornado Drill March 23

TornadoFacts2015As part of Ohio’s Spring Severe Weather Awareness Week, the State of Ohio will conduct a state-wide tornado drill on Wednesday March 23, 2016 at 9:50 am. Ohio communities will test their outdoor warning sirens and Emergency Alert System broadcast procedures during the drill. At that time, the warning sirens and alert broadcasts heard are part of the tornado drill.

The Cuyahoga County Office of Emergency Management encourages schools, businesses and households across the County to conduct their own tornado drills and review their emergency plans. Weather forecasting science is not perfect and some tornadoes do occur without a tornado warning. There is no substitute for staying alert to the sky.

Remember the following safety tips: Tornado warning signs include: Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base. Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base — tornadoes sometimes have no funnel! Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can’t be seen. Day or night – Loud, continuous roar or rumble. Night – Small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds). These mean power lines are being snapped by very strong wind, maybe a tornado.

What to Do During a Tornado: Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or media broadcast and know your community’s warning signals. Do not wait until you see the tornado to seek shelter. The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement or safe room. If no underground shelter or safe room is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative. Homes are not safe during tornadoes or other severe winds. Go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately.

If you are caught outdoors: Immediately walk or drive to the closest sturdy shelter if possible. If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park and either: Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.  Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.

For additional information, contact the Cuyahoga County Office of Emergency Management at 216-443-5700 or visit our website at

Shredding Day April 9th


The Villages of Bentleyville and Chagrin Falls are again sponsoring a Community Shred Day on Saturday, April 9th, 2016. The event will be held in the parking lot of the Chagrin Falls Intermediate School, 77 E. Washington Street, off of Philomethian Street, from 9:00 A.M. until 12 Noon.

The service is free for the residents of the two Villages. We ask that you limit your shred material to five boxes or bags. Materials that can be shredded include: paper, light cardboard, Staples, paper clips and 3.5 inch computer storage discs,

Questions can be directed to either the Bentleyville Village Hall at 440-247-5055 or the Chagrin Falls Village Hall at 440-247-5050.

The Value of Shade Trees in a Business District

Chagrin Falls Shade Trees in business districtAs chair of the Chagrin Falls Shade Tree Commission, I would like to periodically post information on the value of shade trees. The first topic in this series is: The Value of Shade Trees in a Business District. The information for this posting was gleaned from research done by Dr. Kathleen Wolf of the University of Washington. Doctor Wolf is a highly respected scientist whose work strictly adheres to the best practices in research and has been published in highly respected journals.

Dr. Wolf asked respondents to rate business districts on a scale of 1, the lowest rating, to 5, the highest rating. Business districts with no trees received a rating of 1.66. Districts with tree canopies similar to the one found in Chagrin Falls received a rating of 3.32. Pocket parks, like our triangle and Riverside Park, received a rating of 3.69.

Dr. Wolf then compared patronage behavior in business districts with high ratings like those for Chagrin Falls to those with a lower rating. The results showed that business patrons were willing to drive farther to shop in a district with a tree canopy similar to ours, stayed longer, and visited more often than they did in similar business districts without trees.

Additionally, Dr. Wolf measured patrons’ place perceptions of treed districts vs. those with few trees. She found that places similar to Chagrin Falls received ratings 30% higher than those without trees. She also discovered that respondents estimated the price of goods in districts similar to ours to be worth 9% more than those found in districts without trees.

By looking at these studies, I believe we can all see that by planting and maintaining trees in our business district we are investing in the economic success of Chagrin Falls.

Village Budget Explained: Operations of the Village Water and Sewer Departments

Water Quality-2013The most important thing to understand about the village’s water and sewer funds is they have to operate  separate from the villages other departments and finances; the finances cannot be commingled.  They each are intended to operate as a separate business – technically the term is enterprise fund – and be supported by their utility charges or fees. The village’s water and sewer departments are regionalized and provide utility services to portions of the surrounding communities of: Chagrin Falls Township, Bainbridge, Russell, South Russell, Bentleyville, and Moreland Hills.
In fact,  Geauga County owns and has paid for 22% of the construction cost of the waste water treatment plant and shares the operating costs. The Village has 2,424 water connections and 1,833 sewer connections. Reports on the safety of your drinking water are mailed with the July bill each year and additional copies are available at the Village Hall.
Water Fund;
The water system is comprised of eighteen miles of water mains, over 500 fire hydrants, two deep wells, a 2 million gallon reservoir, two booster pump stations and high service area pump house and control room.  A rough estimate of the value of this infrastructure is 15 to 20 million dollars. The Village wisely spent part of the past estate tax proceeds on replacing its 100 year old water and sewer system leaving us in a relatively good state. In fact the water main replacement resulted in a lower fire insurance rating for the village saving residents insurance premium cost.  Approximately 60% of the water mains are now less than 25 years old and have an estimated life of 100 years.The village water system is efficient with non-revenue water lost to leakage estimated at less than 13%. This compares to a national average of 20% and 29% for the city of Cleveland water system.
Your drinking water currently comes from two sources; our current Franklin Street well field located in Bentleyville and the Cleveland Water District (CWD). The Washington Street well field located in Bainbridge, and now part of Frohring Meadow Park, was moth balled when the Village choose to go to Cleveland Water as an alternative supply source and is not currently in use. The Bainbridge wellfield is potentially available for future use. The water industry as a whole is experiencing a decrease in water consumption and the Village is no exception. The Village’s average annual consumption per customer has fallen from 11,733 cubic feet per year in 1982 to 8819 cubic feet per year today, a 25% reduction per meter.
Public water systems are highly regulated and most of the water utility’s costs are fixed and largely outside of the Villages ability to control. The total budget for the water department is $1,760,000 of which $440,000 are personnel costs or 25% of the total costs. Water purchased from the CWD is budgeted at $963,000 or 55% of the total cost of our water department. Water purchased from CWD costs $4.78 per 1000 gallons compared to our cost to produce water from our own well field of $2.80 per 1000 gallons.In fact this is the number one problem in controlling cost in the water utility; the CWD contract. When the water contract with the CWD was renewed in 2007 it contained the carryover provision from the original contact entered into in 1985 for the village to take minimum quantities of water regardless of need; this is sometimes called a take or pay provision. This minimum purchase requirement obligates us to buy 500,000 gallons perday regardless of need. This was included in the original 1985 contract to compensate CWD for paying for the line down Solon Road and in recognition of the Village potentially expanding its service area further into Geauga County. Subsequent to our entering into the 1985 contract, CWD itself extend service to Geauga County thus depriving us of the ability to service that area and the water line cost was fully recovered during the initial 22 year contract term. This problem of minimum purchase obligations is further aggravated by the afore mentioned 25% reduction in average consumption per customer. The administration is in discussions with the CWD to attempt of gain some relief from this minimum purchase requirement. The current contract expires in 2027.
The rate increase passed in November of 2015 is designed to provide adequate operating funds and to accumulate the necessary capital improvement funds required to maintain the water utility infrastructure.  These projected capital costs (largely in ground water lines) are currently estimated at approximately 2 million dollars and existing capital reserve funds are $190,000. These capital expenditures will be undertaken over a number of years and done in conjunction with our street maintenance program.  With estate tax now eliminated, the water rate must be sufficient to fund capital needs not paid for with debt or grants. The newly implemented water rates should generate a minimum $50,000/year for capital needs including debt service and grant matching funds.  This rate increase equates to an additional charge of approximately $0.18 per 100 cubic feet on your bill or $19.00 per year for the water usage of the average customer
With the new rates and an orderly replacement cycle this is a manageable project. Obviously any relief we are able to obtain from CWD will assist this project greatly.
Sewer Fund;
The sewer plant is 44 years old but has been very well maintained and is operating in compliance with its EPA license. Much like the water fund the sewer fund’s costs are largely fixed. The sewer funds budget for 2016 is $1,367,000 of which $778,000 is personnel costs or just over half of the total costs, the remaining costs are largely purchased utilities $222,000 and sludge disposal cost $39,000.
The waste water treatment plant requires on going permit renewals every five years. Our current operating permit expires in October 2016.  The last permit renewal in 2011 required the plant to eliminate all Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO).  SSO’s are caused by storm water leaking into the system (I/I) and exceeding treatment capacity of our plant and the capacity of our existing storage basin on Solon Road. Storms have been becoming more intense with higher rainfall in shorter periods which makes the problem worse and more frequent.  The Village has been working to reduce I/I since the 1990’s and other sources of storm water entering the system.  In addition to any EPA requirements, we need to reduce the water levels seen in our system after storms to prevent sewage from backing up into homes as well as over flowing into the river.
Our plant was constructed in 1972 and last upgraded in 1992 with some mechanical equipment replaced in 2004.  Most of the electric controls and systems are original equipment and 44 years old. So an upgrade and replacement cycle will also need to be undertaken in conjunction with any EPA license renewal requirements. Our preliminary thinking is this replacement and upgrade will occur by 2020. This cost will likely be funded by means of a combination of grants and bond financing and the cost spread over 20 years. Geauga County will pay their proportional share or 22% of the total. We are still determining what is required and refining the cost estimates.
When we know more I will be back to council and openly discuss the plans with council and the public.
The regular waste water capital requirements largely reflect sewer line replacement. The known replacement needs are projected to be $500,000. Replacement of old lines is one of the principal ways to reduce storm water from entering the system. We currently have $443,000 in the reserve capital funds to meet these line replacement needs.  Like the water fund the November 2015 rate increase should allow us to fund these needs together with normal ongoing cost increases.

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