CLEVELAND - What former Mayor Michael White had touted as a nearly $12 million surplus for the city of Cleveland might actually be a $56 million debt, 19/43 News' Paul Orlousky exclusively reported.
New Mayor Jane Campbell is likely going to break the news to the community on Tuesday, but 19/43 News learned in advance of the city's grim financial condition, and that it would certainly translate into cuts and layoffs.
Accountants are digging through the city's books, and the more that they dig, the worse it gets. Now, the city might be $56 million in the hole. If true, it means big budget cuts at City Hall.
"I think its going to hurt this year," city councilman Kenneth Johnson said. "I think we're going to have to have some cutbacks. I hope not layoffs, but we're certainly going to have to cutback somewhere."
Possible cuts would likely be across the board -- things like street repairs would be delayed, a new fire academy class and two police classes are now unlikely. What is certain is that the city would have to borrow more money and ask taxpayers for even more.
The trickle-down is also being felt in the neighborhoods, where some council members reported that year-end funds that they wanted to hold over until next year to resurface streets are gone, meaning that repairs wouldn't be done.
"Some of my files have completely disappeared," city councilman Joe Cimperman said. "Nobody knows where they are."
Cimperman will have to go back to residents and explain why promised programs won't happen. It's a dereliction of duty more than anything else, he said.
Blame has been targeted at White and his last finance director, Kelly Clark. Clark wasn't home when 19/43 News checked, and she didn't come to the phone when 19/43 News tried to contact her at her new job, and then she quickly drove away to avoid answering questions when confronted in the parking lot of her workplace.