Council approves budget

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 28, 2003

With Monday's deadline looming, the Ironton City Council adopted the city's 2003 financial plan Thursday and city employees also got back the salary increase they sacrificed two years ago.

Council approved a total budget of $16,454,826 in expenditures, with

$4,036,572 planned in general fund expenses.

Email newsletter signup

The general fund includes all the basic governmental departments such as police, fire, the mayor's office, courts, engineering, public facilities and more. Sixty-seven percent of the general fund is derived from taxes,

including the city's 1-percent income tax, property and state taxes.

Court costs and fines account for about 9 percent, service charges such as building permits, parking meters and licensing fees account for 9 percent, another 8 percent comes from interest, transfers and miscellaneous. Sale of assets such as the new ODOT site inside the Ironton Commerce Center accounts for 7 percent.

The city will have a projected carryover of $438,858, about $400,000 less than last year, but could actually be a lot higher by the end of the year, Mayor Bob Cleary said.

The mayor said he was pleased that the budget passed and the city was able to take care of its employees, who willingly gave up a 2-percent increase in 2001. The meeting was the culmination of several months of workshops, discussion and revisions and beat the state's Monday deadline to have a budget in place.

"Every year and every budget you do the very best you can in projecting the revenues and expenditures. I think we did that," Cleary said. "We will watch it closely, look for red flags and adjust it as needed."

City Finance Director Cindy Anderson drafted seven different versions of the budget in recent weeks. Council had two to choose from Thursday - the mayor's draft recommended by Council Chairman Jesse Roberts and Councilman Bob Lipker and a budget recommended by Councilmen Brent Pyles and Richard Price.

The mayor's budget passed with a 5-2 count. Councilmen Jim Tordiff and Brent Pyles voted against the budget.

Both budgets had general fund ending balances that were within $50 of each other. The mayor's draft included a 5 percent salary increase for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 771 and the Fraternal Order of Police Local 75 and the International Association of Fire Fighters 532. The other accounted for a 3 percent increase.

Getting the union contracts passed, with the fire department negotiations to be finalized soon, was significant accomplishment that treated the city's employees fairly, Cleary said.

"It was the right thing to do," Cleary said. "When you figure in the insurance increase, they are getting a little over the 2 percent they would get this year plus the 2 percent they voluntarily gave up in 2001."

Joe Johnson, president of the local AFSCME chapter, said he is definitely satisfied, and that the increase was overdue.

"It really does help out for what happened two years ago," he said. "We are not trying to stick it to the city, we are just trying to get up to the cost of living."

The union employees will have to pay $20 per month toward their health insurance, but will receive an extra day of personal leave, Cleary said.

While he agreed that all the city's employees deserve a raise, Tordiff said he preferred the other budget. However, he said he would not vote against it if it would stop either budget from passing.

"My feelings all along have been that I would not support any budget that had a wage increase, but I will not allow the city to come to a standstill by not adopting some budget," he said before voting. "I think everyone on council and the mayor have worked together. It is not differences that have held us up, it is issues. It is not about this year's budget, it is about looking at the next year and the year after that."

Tordiff warned that at some point in the next year the city is still going to have to look at a fee increase of some kind. He proposed a $5 per month police fee for the next two years that would free up an additional $300,000 each year.

Councilman John Elam voted for the mayor's budget, but agreed that the city must take steps to safeguard the city's financial future.

"We have been talking about an economic development director. We tried to get grant writers trained to help get additional revenue but that did not work out," he said. "If we are not careful we will be in a poor state soon. I support the budget, but we certainly have a lot of work cut out for us."

Also, Steve Trippe, regional manager for Adelphia Cable returned to discuss the city's options for adding the Ohio News Network to the cable service.

In February, Trippe informed council that the city could add the Ohio News Network, but the city would lose WLWT out of Cincinnati. Due to conflicting programming with other stations, WLWT is currently blacked out 63 percent of the time.Council asked him to look into other options, but Trippe said that it is still the only choice.

Roberts said the sentiment of the community is that they want ONN, but would also like to keep WLWT. Council presented a petition with 408 signatures of residents who would like ONN, but still hope to keep WLWT.

Trippe said the company would look into providing the Ohio news channel without having to replace WLWT, and he will return in June.

In other business, council:

4Adopted an ordinance changing the percentage of total collections deposited in the garbage equipment reserve fund from 6 percent to 3 percent. The ordinance is retroactive to January 2003 and will end in December.

4Authorized the mayor to purchase a 2004 Freightliner garbage truck for $83,267 from West Virginia Tractor Company. This will replace a 1993 model and give the city three vehicles and a backup.

4Authorized the 2003 application for $500,000 through the Community Housing Improvement Pro-gram Grant.

4Authorized the mayor to award a contract of $8,800 to MACTEC Engineering and Consulting, Inc., Lexington, Ky., for evaluation of the land near the railroad tracks as part of the floodgate improvement project at Center Street Landing.