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City must look at budget cuts

With a $250,000 hole looming in the future of Ironton’s city budget, officials are certain Intermet-Ironton Iron’s closure will mean cutbacks and possibly layoffs within the 2000 fiscal year.

Wednesday, December 08, 1999

With a $250,000 hole looming in the future of Ironton’s city budget, officials are certain Intermet-Ironton Iron’s closure will mean cutbacks and possibly layoffs within the 2000 fiscal year.

"I guess the thing that hits you the most severely is when you look at how that will affect our city income taxes," incoming council chairman Jim Tordiff said. "Currently, Ironton Iron employees give us a quarter of a million dollars a year in the 1 percent city income tax."

Additionally, fire fees, water and wastewater and other departments, as well as city businesses, will feel the pinch, Tordiff added.

"That’s so much loss of revenue that we’re really going to have to sit down with the mayor and try to come up with a game plan," Tordiff said. "We’re talking about a major revenue loss, but it’s not just those monies we’ve talked about. Those people will be spending less in the community and all the businesses will suffer."

More importantly, the 619 families who are losing their own major source of income must find a way to continue, he added.

"Forget about the city for a moment –  when you think about those families and how this affects them, it gives you a feeling in your stomach as in the 1980s when the city was at its lowest point," Tordiff said. "Certainly, I’m not saying this is as bad as it was then, but more than 600 people are going to lose their jobs. It’s not a very good day."

In the wake of the Cabletron Systems Inc. closure, Ashland Inc. relocating their corporate headquarters to Covington, Ky., and the cutbacks and layoffs at AlliedSignal –  all of which have happened this year –  it is increasingly obvious that the city will need to make serious adjustments, Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary said.

"This is another in a series of devastating blows to the city," Cleary said. "The budget will not see any immediate effects from the foundry’s closure, but we absolutely will need to plan for future months when it does."

Trimming the city’s annual budget will be first on the agenda for the new year, he said.

"I’ll be meeting with city council members and we will certainly scrutinize the budget to see what we can do," Cleary said. "We certainly hope to maintain city services, but there will be changes."

Some of those changes might come in the form of cutbacks and even layoffs within city personnel ranks, councilman Joe Black said.

"We knew going into 2000 that, because of previous losses, it was going to have a negative impact on our revenues and our general fund balance," Black said. "Now, this will add an even larger hit to our general fund and we will have to look very closely to what expenditures can be cut. Unfortunately, we will probably be looking at some personnel cuts because, to generate the kind of revenue we were getting from Ironton Iron, there is no solution other than some major belt tightening."

Although the layoffs might become necessary, Black said he and other city officials hope it doesn’t come to that.

"I really feel that we’re probably at minimum staffing with our city personnel as it is, but it is the reality of the situation that if the money is not there we can’t spend it," he said. "This type of news is very depressing to hear, but we can’t shirk our responsibility as the leaders of the city in trying to find a solution to our revenue shortfalls."

When 619 families lose jobs, the effect trickles down through the city and everyone feels the effects, he said.

"It is going to be very difficult to replace a good-paying job like this for these families, and this is not news these families needed to hear right before holidays," he said. "And, for the other Ironton businesses, they know the people who may have planned on spending a certain amount on holiday gifts will certainly not be doing that now that they know they are going to lose their jobs in February. Everyone, in one way or another, will feel the effects of the plant closing in Ironton."

Despite the obvious devastation to the city budget, to the families of the employees of Ironton Iron and to other businesses in the city, this is not the time to admit defeat, councilman Jesse Roberts said.

"As a citizen it is just devastating to me to think that the people in our community must face yet another closure and that our way of life is changing," Roberts said. "As a government representative, I know it is an extremely sad day for the city because we just were set back about 10 or 12 years, maybe farther, I’m not sure. But, it is time for us to stand as a community, fight back, find new industry and grow again."

Marketing the talents of the community, the strong workforce and the buildings and other services the city has to offer a new business should be first on everyone’s mind, regardless of the other impacts on the city, Roberts said.

"The old adage about we can’t take it lying down is true. It’s time for us to get out and market the talents of the people in the community, and it is time for us to market the city, and it’s time to fight back. It would be easy to sit here and wonder what we are going to do and how we are going to do this, but it is all in how you say how. We just have to fight."