Village of Bridgeport in financial emergency

State auditor will have oversight

The village of Bridgeport is in a state of financial emergency and reportedly owes more than $90,000 to the Ohio Water Development Authority and the Ohio Public Works Commission. T-L Photo/ ROBERT DEFRANK

BRIDGEPORT — The village is now in a state of fiscal emergency, with the Ohio Auditor’s Office reporting Bridgeport owes a total of $90,636 in missed payments on loans from the Ohio Water Development Authority and the Ohio Public Works Commission.

“The village of Bridgeport is in a state of fiscal emergency after they defaulted on outstanding debts,” said Beth Gianforcaro, spokeswoman for the Ohio Auditor’s Office.

The village of 1,831 people now will come under the oversight of a financial planning and supervision commission.

Attempts to reach village officials Tuesday for comments were unsuccessful.

Gianforcaro said the state described Bridgeport as “unauditable” in May because it had incomplete financial records and bank reconciliations.

The state office was unable to determine if the village meets three other criteria for a fiscal emergency. Those are a treasury deficiency, deficit fund balances and past due accounts payable.

“These records are in such disarray that it’s impossible to fully evaluate the village’s financial standing,” Ohio Auditor David Yost said in a statement. “This declaration of fiscal emergency will provide Bridgeport officials with much-needed resources and will be the kick-start needed to help them get their finances moving in the right direction.”

Gianforcaro said the village must now establish a planning and supervision commission locally, but under the oversight of Yost’s office. Within 120 days of its first meeting, the commission must develop a plan to eliminate the fiscal emergency conditions.

“That’s the next step,” she said. “We serve as the financial supervisor to the commission, but the commission will come up with the plan.”

She did not speculate on some of the options to readdress the situation.

“Each village that goes into an oversight financial planning and supervision commission, there’s specific needs to their communities,” she said.

In May, the state auditor said between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2017, it found Bridgeport had an incomplete 2017 annual financial report; a lack of monthly bank reconciliations for 2017; and Mayor David Smith writing non-payroll checks manually during 2017.

Smith said at that time that financial issues began when former fiscal officer Agnes Hess resigned. At that point, Smith contacted Yost’s office regarding Bridgeport’s financial situation.

When Marla Krupnik began her duties as fiscal officer to help assess the situation, she reportedly told village officials that the financial situation was more than she could handle. The village had brought in outside accounting firm Rea & Associates to resolve the issues and worked with them for close to 15 months at a cost of about $80,000.

Smith said the village was without a fiscal officer during that time, and he manually wrote checks to help pay the village’s bills from March to August 2017. He said he notified the state and village during this time.

Roberta Gaffney began working as fiscal officer in October 2017 and said all invoices and receipts would need to be entered in to the village’s computer system. Smith said the auditor issues its required notice before all of the information could be entered.

A village is placed in fiscal emergency if any one of the six conditions described in the Ohio Revised Code exists. The six conditions are default on a debt obligation; failure to make payment of all payroll; an increase in the minimum levy of the village which results in the reduction in the minimum levy of another subdivision; significant past due accounts payable; substantial deficit balances in village funds; and A sizable deficiency when the village’s treasury balance is compared to the positive cash balances of the village’s funds.