Updated: 11/17/18 7:00 am
We would venture a guess that not many Lake County residents even know what role or function the Port Authority performs for the taxpayers. [Not too long ago I would have been in that boat]
As we do with all of our research projects, we start with getting the financial information (knowing an entity’s revenue stream is critical – as the old sayings go “money makes the world go round” or “just follow the money”)
Here are the financial statements provided to us by the Port:
After reviewing the statements, we have developed some questions that we hope to resolve at our November 20th meeting with the Port Authority’s management. We will post as more information becomes available to us.
From their website we got to learn about their management team: Port’s Management Team
From the Ohio Council of Port Authorities’ website, we learned some valuable information about the history and powers of Port Authorities.
There are two sections that we highlighted because they are extremely important when we consider the impact of the “Rider’s Inn Affair”. For those that may be unaware of that issue, here is the email that Commissioner Dan Troy sent to Mr. Mark Rantala, and Mr. Rantala’s response to Mr. Troy. Email from Dan Troy to Port Authority regarding Rider’s Inn Luncheon 9-9-18
It is our opinion, that the email from Troy was totally unwarranted, and Mr. Rantala’s response was tepid, at best. We would have preferred that Mr. Rantala told Troy to “take a hike”, and Rantala should have had some backup from the other Commisioners – Cirino and Hamercheck. This whole issue has been “fumbled” by everyone that should have known better. [Update – 11/17/18 LFC Correction: I have been told by another LFC member that Commissioner Cirino did try to convince Rantala that the luncheon location should not have been changed. Our goal is to be 100% accurate, therefore, we issue this correction and apology to Commissioner Cirino.]
- Port Authorities are created by local units of government but are independent from the body that created them. For example, if your county commissioners created a port authority by resolution, they have the right to do so but once a board is appointed the board is not legally required to answer to the commissioners, even though they made the ports existence possible.
- Port authorities can be sued, are not immune from liability and are considered bodies politic and corporate.
There was this little nugget that we also learned. The Port has the ability to levy a property tax. We will be asking them for their future plans in this area.
- Ports may levy taxes on property for up to 1 mill for a 5-year period, if the registered voters in the jurisdiction approve the tax and the revenue can be used for any stated purpose.
From their website we learned: The Lake County Port Authority was established in 2007 for the “purpose of promoting projects that will provide for the creation of jobs and employment opportunities and improve the economic welfare for the people residing in Lake County, as well as to encourage projects to enhance, foster, aid, provide or promote transportation, economic development, housing, recreation, education, governmental operations, culture or research within the territory served by the Authority.”
From a News-Herald article dated 1/8/14 we discovered that Peter Zahirsky was hired to serve as the Port’s new coastal manager. Coastal Manager hired 2014
From a News-Herald article dated 4/6/17, we were told that Mentor dissolved their Port Authority and joined the Lake County Port Authority. The Board expanded from 7 to 9 directors, with an understanding that 3 of the directors will be from Mentor.
From another News-Herald article dated April 6, 2017, we learned that a tax on hotel lodgings (bed tax) was increased from 3% to 5% to be used o lakefront projects. News-Herald article 4-6-17
For those keeping score: We have determined that the Port was established in 2007, and in 2014 Mr. Zahirsky was hired as a Port Authority employee to implement the new coastal plan. In 2017, Board was increased to the current 9 members, and the Commissioners established their revenue stream with the 2% increase in the lodging tax.
Our next steps will be to determine what the Ohio Revised Code says about what the ‘bed tax’ may be used for. ORC sections 5739.09 and 306.678 deals with the administration, allocation, and disposition of lodging tax revenue. Stay tuned, we will report to you as we get additional information.