Budget clock ticking

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Tick, tick, tick, tick.

Time is running out for the Ironton City Council to adopt a finalized 2003 budget before Monday's deadline.

The Ironton Finance Committee met Monday in an hour and half executive session to discuss union contracts and to try to come to an agreement on the city's financial plan.

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Council meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, it will have two budgets to choose from - the Mayor's third draft that was recommended by Council Chairman Jesse Roberts and councilman Bob Lipker and another proposal recommended by Councilmen Brent Pyles and Richard Price.

"Our budget is not perfect. The mayor's budget is not perfect," Pyles said. "We are hoping council will take the two budgets and stack the numbers together and come up with something to best serve the city."

The biggest differences are the salary levels and a few line items. Overall, Monday's meeting showed councilmen are somewhat divided on where the budget should be, but it is not so big a gap that it can not be worked out, Pyles said.

"I have to be optimistic something will be adopted Thursday," Pyles said. "I do not want to see the city shut down because we do not have a budget. I think we are going into (Thursday's meeting) with choices and hopefully can come up with something agreeable to a majority and work from there."

Mayor Bob Cleary said he does not yet have an absolute bottom line on his third draft of the budget, but said he is very close to having a solid budget completed.

"I feel like this is as good as it gets. It will reflect the revenues accurately," he said. "I think it is a conservative budget, and I think there will be more money coming in than predicted. I do not foresee any layoffs or cuts to any services provided to the community."

After ending 2002 with more than $800,000 in carryover, Cleary's newest budget is projecting the city to end with $436,000. However, the carryover could actually be much higher because the 2002 projection was also about $400,000, he said.

"We will have to keep a close watch on the budget, look for red flags and correct problems when we see them," he said. "There is no doubt in my mind we will have a budget by March 31. The content of that budget we are still not sure of yet."

Also on the agenda and accounted for in the mayor's budget are 5 percent salary increases for all three unions. Cleary said he has already reached tentative agreements with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 771 and the Fraternal Order of Police Local 75. Negotiations are just beginning with the International Association of Fire Fighters 532.

"In 2001, with all the plant closures we were not sure where the budget was going," Cleary said. "The unions gave up a 2 percent increase to help the city. We have some extra funds this year and it is time we give that back to them, move forward and continue to promote economic development in the city."

If the tentative agreements are approved, the union employees will have to pay $20 per month toward their health insurance, Cleary said.