Archived Story

ICC passes 2013 operating budget

Published 12:00am Sunday, March 17, 2013

At its regular meeting Thursday, the Ironton City Council passed its 2013 operating budget.

Council voted to suspended the rules and have all three readings of the ordinance and the budget was adopted unanimously by all six members in attendance. Councilman Dave Frazer was absent from the meeting.

“Over the last five months we have put a lot of time into developing a workable budget,” said Mayor Rich Blankenship. This year’s budget was passed about two weeks earlier than in recent years, he said.

The budget, recommended by the city’s finance committee, will keep the city’s monthly municipal fee at $14 rather than reducing it to $11 as outlined last year. By keeping it at the current rate, the fee is expected to bring in about $896,000 for 2013.

“With this budget, it’s going to free up something to allow me to get some things done in the city,” Blankenship said. “I know people are not happy with the $14 fee, but they are also not happy when I say we don’t have the money or the manpower.”

Overall, the general fund revenue for the city is expected to be about $5.4 million with expenditures at just over $5.2 million.

With the changes from this budget and the decisions from 2012 that will fully take effect this year, the general fund is projected to have a $200,000 carryover to begin 2014.

Another key element of the budget is filling several positions that were vacated last year.

Three police officers, one firefighter and one income tax clerk have been added into the budget, a move city leaders have said will curb overtime costs incurred by last year’s layoffs.

In all, the city’s workforce was cut by about 12 employees last year after council adopted a budget that required all city employees to begin paying 7.5 percent of their retirement pickup. Rather than take that increase the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 771 and the Fraternal Order of Police unions laid off employees to achieve the 7.5 percent cut in their departments. The firefighters union agreed to other concessions to reach the 7.5 percent savings.

“Services have declined because of a lack of personnel in police and AFSCME,” Blankenship said.

The new budget has in place for those unions to begin paying a 7.5 percent share of retirement, but that is still contingent on ongoing negotiations.

Those unions would also see 6 percent wage increases, according to the budget.

If AFSCME’s contract is negotiated with those terms, the city would save about $107,000 on retirement contributions, only paying 2.5 percent, or about $4,950. The city would pay about $82,000 more in salaries and payroll tax contribution.

The fire union took on a 3 percent retirement contribution last year, but if they take the full 7.5 percent contribution, the city would save an additional $31,000. With the 6 percent wage increase, the city would pay an additional $40,000 in salaries and payroll tax contribution.

“I’m just trying to finalize these two contracts as soon as I can,” Blankenship said.

The mayor also said there are no AFSCME employees left to call back and that he is continuing to reorganize the workforce by transferring those employees to various departments on an as-needed basis.

“We are definitely making those transfers to complete jobs that our citizens want done,” Blankenship said. “… We are cleaning up alleys, we are painting curbs, we are getting things done.

The non-union employees took the 7.5 percent increase last April and saved the city about $70,000.

The 2013 budget gives those employees (excluding municipal court and community corrections employees) a 6 percent wage increase this year, which is an additional $43,000 expense to the city.

Council approved the salary resolution for those non-union employees at the meeting.

Council had first reading of a new contract with the FOP that also includes a 6 percent wage increase and 7.5 percent pickup.

“There are certain things we targeted or addressed, which is PERS, and I think we’ve made progress, at least with police,” Blankenship said.

If agreed upon by council, the contract would cost about $36,000 for wage and payroll tax contribution and save about $46,000 in retirement costs.

“We are going to keep a very close eye on it (the budget),” Blankenship said. “I think it gives me room to work to get some things done in the city… that will improve the city.”

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