Budget debate ends in more officers

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 10, 2000

Ironton’s 2000 annual operating budget will retain two of the five police officers originally notified they would no longer have jobs last month.

Friday, March 10, 2000

Ironton’s 2000 annual operating budget will retain two of the five police officers originally notified they would no longer have jobs last month.

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After several council budget workshops, finance committee meetings and much debate on council floor, a 4 to 3 vote passed an amended annual operating budget at Thursday’s regular council meeting.

Council members Jesse Roberts, Joe Black and Hugh Scott voted against the newly adopted budget which cuts office supply funds by 10 percent and retains only enough funding in the economic development department for six months instead of one year.

The extra funds provided by these cuts will pay for two officers’ salaries for the remainder of the calendar year.

But, without an economic development department, Ironton’s situation stands to get worse, Black said.

"Our community is bleeding and it seems as though as a city government we are unable to stop that from happening," Black said. "I feel that every day we delay in having full control of our own economic development efforts, in conjunction, of course, with the other agencies in the area, puts us another day behind."

The budget also does not address the recent news of Honeywell’s impending shutdown because it was prepared prior to that announcement, Black said.

"I am tired of seeing the citizens put in a position where they must beg from the rich man’s table," Black said. "We must take charge of our own destiny and part of doing that is to begin an economic development department within the city."

Also, a reciprocity agreement with the City of Ashland, Ky., which passed a 1 1/2 percent income tax for its city workers –  including those who reside in Ironton –  will cause about $100,000 in additional revenue losses for Ironton, Roberts said.

"For two years, I’ve been listening to people voice concerns with spending our carryover reserves, but this is, essentially, a budget that spends more than we are bringing in," Roberts said. "If you take into consideration at least $100,000 in anticipated revenue losses with the reciprocity agreement with Ashland, you are, in fact, passing a budget that is in the red, which is against the Ohio Revised Code. We have overstated our revenues by at least $100,000."

Council chairman Jim Tordiff, one of two sponsors of the budget, said the reciprocity would be a six-month problem because of the time it was passed in Ashland. Black, however, stated it will affect the budget throughout the year because it was passed in July 1999.

Despite those losses, Tordiff agreed the budget is in no way a prime budget.

"In this budget, we are proposing to spend about a half million more dollars than we are bringing in, but that is a little misleading because a good portion of those funds were from the one-time Worker’s Compensation rebate," Tordiff said. "I’m supporting this because the finance director has reported the Ashland tax will be a six-month problem and that Honeywell is not leaving until the end of the year. We will definitely have an even bigger problem facing us next year if businesses do not come back into the city. But I have confidence that the announcements that the governor spoke of will be coming soon and that his team will continue to work for the city as they have been doing – keeping Ironton a top priority."

Councilman Leo Ulery agreed with Tordiff’s budget proposal, saying it is a concern but that the city must work the best it can with what it has.

"I’d like to see it work and I have a lot of faith in the people on Gov. Taft’s staff," Ulery said. "It has only been about five weeks since those staff members gathered at Ohio University Southern Campus and already we are seeing results. I don’t think a local recruiter can open doors in Columbus and that our funds are better spent here in the city."