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City passes pared down budget

Their faces told the story.

Friday, December 29, 2000

Their faces told the story. Residents who packed council chambers Thursday saw councilman Jesse Roberts’ set jaw, council chairman Jim Tordiff’s red complexion, councilman Leo Ulery’s and other members’ pained looks.

The expressions marked the tone of Ironton City Council’s regular meeting – a meeting about a budget that includes layoffs.

Council members unanimously accepted an amended version of the proposed 2001 operating budget and placed $100,000 back into the police department’s budget.

The measure placed enough money back into the budget to ensure police dispatchers were able to continue serving in their current positions.

"This in no way says that it reflects my permanent decision," Roberts said during the meeting. "We still need to search for ways to ensure a balanced budget. We may still have to do away with the dispatch."

Ulery said he supported the amendment, but more cutbacks can be expected in the near future.

"When I see jobs, I see families," Ulery told council. "But, this is action we must take I support this amendment, but within the next two weeks, there will be some type of drastic action. We’re simply postponing action."

Council’s final approval of the budget set the pace for cutbacks in several departments, including the layoff of one employee from the engineering department and one police officer – Pam Neal.

At the meeting, Ms. Neal reminded council members before they took action that the police department was "already short three officers" on the city streets.

Other cuts will likely include the street department laying off one employee; the fire department will be cut by two; the city health department will discharge one part-time employee; the finance department is to cut one full-time employee to part-time; and the municipal court is expected to make undisclosed concessions.

Tordiff said the action was the result of a combined effort of the finance committee, other council members and Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary, which resulted in asking nearly every department to cut back in several different ways.

"I’m really pleased the budget was passed because there were a lot of issues that needed to be addressed," Cleary said. "The only bad side is that we will have to go back to the drawing board to see where we can cut to make up for the additional $100,000."

He said that while the cuts will be immediate, he would not have been supportive of reducing the police department any more than what it was.

"We’re already four short," Cleary said. "I think that’s getting dangerously close. But, we still have a $100,000 problem in the budget and council will need to look at where we need to make additional cuts."

Tordiff said he hoped the layoffs would only be temporary in nature.

"We hope we have some things on the horizon that will help not only the economy, but the budget as well," he said. "We either have to increase revenue or decrease expenditures. We have a very real problem in the general fund and we have some very real numbers in front of us that show the income tax revenue is going backward."

Cleary said council’s actions could be viewed as preventive medicine.

"We’ve been closely monitoring the 2000 budget and what we’re doing is fixing the problem before it happens," he said. "It is simply good business to prepare for the worst with the idea that it may go the other way."