YORK – Last Wednesday, Aug. 1, York Mayor Orval Stahr and York City Administrator Joe Frei announced that the city’s current financial status is in dire straits and more than $1 million will have to be cut from the budget and the city property tax levy will have to be more than doubled.
They are also asking for wage, step and longevity pay freezes for all employees.
On Saturday, Aug. 4, former York administrator Tara Vasicek filed a public records request with the City of York, asking to see the 2017-18 financial records so she could review them.
In her request, Vasicek says “pursuant to the public records law, this is a request for an electronic copy of the following records:
- Current General Fund cash held in all checking accounts.
- Current General Fund cash held in investments (certificates of deposit, money markets, etc.)
- Records of all reserve withdrawals between January 2017 and present.
- Monthly financials, reported by fund, including revenues and expenses from January 2017 through June 2018.
“The principal purpose of this is to make this information more accessible to the public and to access and disseminate information regarding the health, safety and welfare of the general public,” Vasicek says in her request.
Vasicek was the York city administrator from July, 2013, through Jan. 3, 2017.
When she took the position, she replaced longtime former York City Administrator Jack Vavra.
Vasicek was administrator during the time Chuck Harris was mayor. Stahr took the mayoral office on Dec. 15, 2016, and Vasicek announced her resignation on Dec. 30, 2016.
At that time, she announced she would be resigning in order to take the position of city administrator of Columbus, a position she currently holds.
Frei was then hired in early 2017 to fill the administrator position.
On Tuesday morning, Aug. 7, Vasicek said she has been provided, so far, information regarding the cash accounts, CD face values and checking account balances.
Those figures show the following:
- CDs for landfill closure/post-closure total: $2,115,840.21
- Pooled cash CDs total: $9,349,142.96
- Water debt service CDs: $552,000
- Wastewater debt service CDs: $109,797.36
- Today’s balance in the checking account: $5,930,126.23
- Today’s balance in the CDBG re-use account: $393,249.55
- Today’s balance in the insurance account: $36,098.65
The city clerk has indicated she will get the rest of the requested information to Vasicek as soon as possible.
Going through the documents so far provided, Vasicek issued the following statement Tuesday morning to the York News-Times:
“The statements recently made by the mayor and administrator in York are concerning to me and to the community my family and I once called home. I also believe they are inaccurate. When I left York, the financial position of the city was healthy. The records prove that. I believe the situation in York currently is a combination of poor management and unrealistic expectations of municipal government in the budget, not an issue of previous years of management. I made the public records request to verify this. At this time, the York City Clerk has verified that the general fund cash reserves are approximately $16 million, which is substantially similar to previous years. The ‘problem’ that the York mayor is trying to convey is not that York is broke but that they do not have enough revenue to fund what they want included in the city’s upcoming budget. These are two starkly different ‘problems.’”
Also on Tuesday morning, Aug. 7, News Channel Nebraska provided the York News-Times with a statement they garnered from Vasicek following the Aug. 6 meeting of the Columbus City Council. During that conversation, Vasicek told that news agency she believes Mayor Stahr is looking for a way to fund economic development through the claims of a financial crisis.
"Since Orval Stahr has been running for mayor, he's been on a platform of wanting to gather a lot of revenue for economic development, and the community generally hasn't been supportive of that," Vasicek said to News Channel Nebraska. "They didn't support the idea of reallocating sales tax, that didn't even get to the ballot, they weren't supportive of his idea to take money out of the utility funds to do this. Now, as they go through the budget process, he's trying what he can to find money in the normal budget to fund economic development."
Vasicek told News Channel Nebraska that the rest of the information she has requested from the City of York is going to confirm that York is not broke, and is not going bankrupt.