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University Heights’ finances looking better after city takes in additional $461,000 in CARES Act money

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio — Although it is uncertain what lies ahead, the city’s finances are looking a lot better these days after University Heights recently received an additional $461,000 in federal CARES Act money to help it deal with COVID-related expenses.

Gov. Mike DeWine, by signing into law House Bill 614 Oct. 1 allowed for the distribution of an additional $650 million to local governments across Ohio, bringing the total of money distributed to Ohio governments to $1.2 billion. The added $461,000 means that University Heights has now received just over $1.1 million in relief money.

“At first, we didn’t know if we’d get any (CARES Act) money,” said Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan. But, now that the city has been granted the money, Brennan, in his report at the start of Monday’s (Oct. 5) City Council meeting, told of how the aid has significantly closed the gap on what was once a projected $2-million deficit the city faced.

With the added funding, Brennan also plans to pay city employees money they had to forego by working four-day weeks over the course of 20 weeks, beginning in June. Brennan announced at the council meeting that the furloughs, that were to carry on until Oct. 31, were ending earlier than planned.

Initially, when faced with a possible $2-million shortfall, the administration and council worked to reduce the city’s spending by about $1 million. The reduction was made, among other things, by putting off this year’s road repair program, instituting the furloughs, and, due to the pandemic, not having to spend money on opening the city’s pools or in programming summer activities.

“While tax revenues remain down from this point last year,” Brennan reported to council, “for everything we have been through, we are down just 1 percent from this time last year. Rather than $2 million, we are down overall approximately $250,000 from original projections.

“The $1.06 million in budget cuts we made in June more than cover that, though many of those things are expenses that were deferred, like the roads program. The actions we took in June did not contemplate the receipt of CARES Act money. We hoped for such funds, we could not assume we would received them.”

Recent changes in U.S. Treasury guidelines for spending CARES Act money allow the city to use the funds to restore municipal operations, instead of having to spend the money on only COVID-related expenses.

“After consulting with the vice mayor (Michele Weiss), our finance director (Dennis Kennedy) and law director (Luke McConville), effective with the pay period ending Oct 3, the furlough and salary reductions are ended, and the full salaries and wages of the affected employees are restored,” Brennan announced. “Council members received an email this afternoon (Oct. 5) from the finance director: those of us elected officials who took a voluntary reduction need simply confirm to the finance director that you are waiving no further income from our positions.

“What does this mean for the public? For one thing,

“We must act now” on climate

“Science tells us, every day with more precision, that urgent action is needed—and I am not dramatizing, this is what science says—if we are to keep the hope of avoiding radical and catastrophic climate change,” he told an audience today at the launch event for TED Countdown, a new global initiative to accelerate climate action. “And for this, we must act now. This is a scientific fact.”

The pope, who recently published a new encyclical arguing for social unity, believes that we need to start with education about environmental problems based on science. We need to ensure that everyone has access to clean water and sustainably produced food. And we need to transition to clean, renewable energy, with a focus on meeting the needs of the poor and people who have to move to new jobs in the energy sector.

Businesses also need to consider their impact on both the environment and humanity, he said, and one way to encourage this is by investing in companies that “put sustainability, social justice, and the promotion of the common good at the center of their activities.”

“The current economic system is unsustainable,” he told the digital audience. “We are faced with the moral imperative, and the practical urgency, to rethink many things: The way we produce; the way we consume; our culture of waste; our short-term vision; the exploitation of the poor and our indifference towards them; the growing inequalities and our dependence on harmful energy sources. We need to think about all these challenges.” All of us, he says, need to work to “persuade those in doubt, imagine new solutions, and commit to carry them out.”

The economy could be based on what the pope calls “integral ecology,” with the ultimate goal of protecting the well-being of humans and our common home. “Our goal is clear: to build, within the next decade, a world where we can meet the needs of the present generations, including everyone, without compromising the possibilities of future generations.”

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