Saturday, October 09, 1999

Tiny Corwin repays big debt

Budgeting and restraint have paid off

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        CORWIN — Conservative spending and a determined spirit have pulled this tiny northern Warren County village from a quagmire of debt.

        The village Thursday gave county commissioners a check for $17,000 to pay a large chunk of overdue water and sewer fees. It should end the year $300 or so in the red — a far cry from the 1998 year-end balance of minus $14,000.

        The village's resurrection is largely due to a tight leash on spending maintained by a state-imposed oversight committee, said village clerk Beverly Campbell. She also attri butes the community's quick rebound to widespread support among the village's 220 residents.

        “The majority of the people I encountered had the feeling of "We want to maintain our village status,'” she said. “Things are looking really good. We're excited about that.”

        A year ago, the village's future was bleak. Ohio Auditor Jim Petro declared Corwin in fiscal emergency. By Janu ary, Mr. Petro recommended residents vote to disband the 150-year-old village's government.

        Since Corwin received the label of fiscal emergency, a commission of state and local experts has met regularly to oversee the village's finances. The group set a budget and strictly abided by it, said one member, Joe Gray, a budget analyst for the state Office of Budget and Management.

        “Before, (they) were spending willy-nilly without any set budget appropriations ... or without following them,” Mr. Gray said.

        While the village is moving in the right financial direction, its troubles aren't over yet. It still owes the county $8,000 for past-due water and sewer fees.

        Another water debt is down from $40,000 to $17,000. Mrs. Campbell said the bill stems from a water leak incurred when state workers were building restrooms along the Little Miami Scenic Trail. Corwin officials claim the Ohio Department of Natural Resources should reimburse the village. Mrs. Campbell said she expects the village to take the state department to court over the dispute.

        Mr. Gray said he expects the commission to dissolve by the end of next year, once the village regains its financial footing.


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