Voters can force leadership change
Last week, Mayor O’Leary presented his Sawvel Electric Rate Study and unveiled to the public an 8.6 percent increase for Galion’s residential rate payers, proposing residential electric rates higher than both Ohio Edison and Ohio Power.
This 8.6 percent increase combined with the PCA increases (that the city implemented since August 2015) means that the residential electric rates will have increased 13 percent since 2015.
Galion’s residential electric rate payers have bailed out the city with higher electric rates ever since the City of Galion went into fiscal emergency back in 2004. And in 2013, it was discovered that all electric rate payers had been overbilled resulting in roughly a $ 7.5 million dollar balance in the Electric Fund. Instead of refunding the overcharged amounts to all of the electric rate payers, Mayor O’Leary used that fund balance to subsidize the rates for large power users only and reduced their electric rates. Those ‘cut rates’ for large power users could not go on forever; but according to O’Leary’s plan that ‘day of reckoning’ would not happen until after his 2017 election. Unfortunately for Mayor O’Leary — and fortunately for the residential rate payers — this mismanagement of the electric fund and O’Leary’s plan to raise the residential electric rates materialized before the Nov. 7 election.
Galion’s increase in residential electric rates will only make life in Galion harder for a lot of residents, especially those on fixed incomes or disabled. Nearly half of Galion’s households have retirees. And for my disabled clients on Social Security SSI, the maximum benefit is only $735 per month.
Mayor O’Leary’s disregard for residential electric rate payers makes it appear that he has forgotten that residential electric rate payers are “the voters.” In the past, when Galion had a charter/city manager form of government, the voters could not get rid of a bad city manager whose neglect and mismanagement led to fiscal emergency and higher utility rates. Now that Galion is a statutory/mayor form of government, it is a whole new ballgame. The voters hold the power. And Mayor O’Leary will be answerable to them Nov. 7.
E. Roberta Wade