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Ironton City Council considers looming financial crisis

How to handle the financial crisis looming on Ironton’s horizon is the question city council is still trying to solve.

Sunday, August 12, 2001

How to handle the financial crisis looming on Ironton’s horizon is the question city council is still trying to solve.

It’s also a question the legislators thought they had answered. Council and the Right Choice committee proposed legislation that would be placed on the ballot this November. The legislation would have enacted a $2.50 per month fee, probably on the water bill, that would be paid per household; and increase the city’s payroll tax 0.45 percent, up from its current 1 percent rate.

At last Thursday’s meeting, council reviewed a new ballot item that would only increase the tax rate as required by Ohio law. The proposed fee, however, was ruled a referendum by the county’s Board of Elections.

By being considered a referendum, the law requires a signature petition, not an act of legislation, to place the item on the ballot. Councilmen were told by attorney Bob Anderson, the city’s legal council, that council would need to either enact the legislation themselves or solicit signatures of 10 percent of the city’s residents that voted in the last city election.

The tax rate increase ordinance was tabled at Thursday’s meeting. Council did not hold the special meeting yesterday; the meeting will probably be this week.

Council is also facing a time deadline to get any item on the ballot. The final date to place an item on the ballot is August 23. Council would also be required to suspend the rules and give the issue three emergency readings. If not, the ballot item has to wait 30 days – exceeding the time the city has to place the item for vote by November’s election.

City officials said Ironton’s general fund account, the budget fund that pays salaries and benefits, capital improvement, and other items are taking a major hit from the loss of businesses inside the city limits.

Six businesses have left the city since 1999: Cabletron Systems, Allied Signal, and Ashland Oil pulled out of the city in 1999; Matlack and Ironton Iron left in 2000 and River Valley Heath Systems closed its doors this winter. The loss of these businesses has left a $800,000 gap in the city’s finances.

The combined ballot proposal was supposed to fill the gap and ease the tension on the city’s wallet. Not being able to place the municipal fee on the ballot has left council once again in the position to find away to generate income for the city.