New efforts made to come up with city budgetPublished 12:01am Sunday, February 26, 2012
It was a first look at a second plan.
Ironton City Council was presented Thursday evening with a second proposed budget that is aimed at trimming costs, and in so doing, trims a budget shortfall of anywhere from $175,000 to half a million dollars but is less severe than the first budget proposed a few weeks ago.
At $5,014, 243, the newest proposed 2012 general fund revenue projection is roughly $55,000 less than the revenue generated for 2011. The proposed budget is $4.8 million, some $375,000 less than the 2011 plan. The budget would have a projected carryover of $175,000.
The newest proposal leaves intact all jobs except for police dispatch (one dispatcher would be retained for clerical and other departmental duties).The first proposal cut police officers, firefighters, the assistant finance director and two departments.
“I think everyone agrees dispatch is a duplication of services,” Martin said.
Office supplies and travel expenses were cut in half for each department.
The newest proposal also includes increases in the amount employees pay for health insurance and contribute toward retirement.
Employees would be required to contribute 10 percent in 2012 toward their health insurance premium, instead of the 5 percent they contribute now. That figure would increase to 20 percent by 2014 and each year thereafter.
Likewise, the pension pickup would be 7.5 percent in 2012 and 10 percent in 2013 and each year after that. Right now employees pay nothing toward their pension pickup.
The spending plan is based on repealing the income tax reciprocity agreement and council approval of a hike in the municipal fee from $8 to $10. Increasing the municipal fee by $2 would bring in a total of $640,000, or $124,000 more than the current $8 fee. Repealing reciprocity is expected to bring in roughly $400,000.
What won’t work
City solicitors Mack and Bob Anderson were asked if the city could amend its tax law to include pensions, 401Ks and even lottery winnings.
The legal opinion? No.
State law will not allow it; pensions and such income are considered intangible and can’t be included in the tax code.
The city is also seeking a state opinion as to whether Ironton Municipal Court Judge O. Clark Collins could give back some of the money the city gives him for operational costs.
The newest proposed budget was handed to council members at Thursday’s meeting. Council meetings have drawn a larger audience than they usually do. Many of those who attend have shared their thoughts about the two proposed budgets and other ideas that have been brought to the table for discussion.
Pam Wagner, Fraternal Order of Police Local 75 president, urged council to think carefully before cutting police officer positions.
“I have to warn you,” Wagner said, “If you cut into us too much more you’ll be putting my guys at terrible risk.”
Wagner also said crime has gone up 27 percent in the last couple of years, at a time when the number of officers to combat that crime has decreased.
“All of a sudden there’s a financial crisis in the city and it’s the employees’ fault. I take exception to that,” Wagner told the council.
She also disagreed with those who think greedy employees who have been unwilling to take concessions are the fault for the city’s financial dilemma. Wagner pointed out that she has been a police officer 17 years and in those 17 years her pay has increase only $5 per hour.
Ron Thomas, of 414 Karin St., came with a sign that read “no” on one side and on the other was a circle with a slash across it that read “new fees” and “new taxes.” He said he thought the new water meters and new water tank on Nixon Hill were supposed to save the city money. He has seen no savings at all. Thomas also said he did not like the idea of taxing social security and pensions.
But Yvonne Sinnott, who owns Yvonne DeKay School Of Dance, pointed out that in Flatwoods, Ky., where her family owns a house, the water bills are higher and so are the taxes.
“Flatwoods’ property taxes are hellacious,” Sinnott said. “Taxes are higher but that’s why Flatwoods looks better.”