Taxpayers must not pay for incompetence

It’s time for heads to roll in Niles. Meanwhile, City Council and Mayor Ralph Infante’s administration should cease any further discussion about raising utility rates and the income tax forgiveness should be restored retroactively.

What’s happening in this city is derelict and in some cases, based on reports from state auditors, potentially criminal. Taxpayers should not pay for these shenanigans.

Case in point: the city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars several years ago on billing software. The software is useless. Another $422,000 allocated to the IT department this year has already dwindled to $26,000 and estimates indicate that another $550,000 is needed. Nobody has been held accountable.

Case in point: The city spent more than $1.5 million to purchase nearly 9,000 water meters. It spent nearly $350,000 in equipment designed to read the meters. The meters are incompatible with the useless billing software so about 7,000 of them have been sitting in a Cincinnati warehouse for years. Nobody has been held accountable.

Case in point: State auditors are overdue to release a performance audit designed to help the city operate more efficiently and a financial audit to make sense of the city’s messy books. One reason these are long overdue is that City Auditor Charles Nader and City Treasurer Robert Swauger have been uncooperative with State Auditor Dave Yost’s office. Nobody has been held accountable.

We could go on.

To make up for massive losses in the city’s general fund, Council increased income taxes by eliminating what’s known as reciprocal forgiveness. When a city residents pay municipal income taxes where they work, that amount is traditionally forgiven in by the municipality in which they live. Beginning this year Niles took away part of that forgiveness.

Then it was revealed that the general fund was in trouble because it was bailing out the utility departments. So now city leaders are talking about raising utility rates. They cite increased water rates from Meander Water, which supplies the city, EPA-mandated upgrades at the sewer treatment plant and years of no price increases.

Nonsense.

The real culprits are the people responsible for the derelict decisions mentioned above and suspected criminal activity that may be revealed in the audits. Taxpayers and utility customers should not pay for this. Thus, Niles should not raise water rates since the problems were caused by those city officials whose bonds should be tapped after the state completes its audits.