Facts lost in debate over city#039;s finances

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

Residents of Ironton, get ready. The piles of garbage awaiting pick-up will likely be around for a bit longer.

They are but a small sign of the political finagling going on in the city. Somehow, with emotions running high and most of the players constantly wearing their hearts on their sleeves, some facts seem to be lost in the debate over how to resolve the city's financial worries and stave off the threat of an employee labor strike.

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Fact: The city is expecting to "lose" $500,000 this year. That's $500,000 short of last year - even after the recent cuts to city staff. Mayor John Elam recently tried to put that into perspective by figuring how many new jobs would be required to cover that budget shortfall. His answer: 1,000 jobs, each paying $50,000 and each new employee paying Ironton's 1 percent municipal income tax.

Fact: The most visible effect of the recent budget cuts simply doesn't add up. Prior to the cuts, the city's sanitation department operated three crews of three men each. Given the incentive that crew members could get paid for a full 8-hour day, regardless of how quickly they finished, the crews routinely finished hours early each day - many familiar with the workers say their work days normally took approximately five hours. So each week those men put in approximately 225 hours as a group. One of the crews was cut, so now only six workers hit the streets and they are expected to work a full eight hours each day. So if our math is correct, that would be 240 total hours each week or 15 hours more work than what was done previously. Yet garbage pick-up has been severely delayed.

Fact: On Monday, Mayor Elam and members of the union averted a strike - at least temporarily. The result is quite simple: the ball was struck directly across the imaginary net and back into the city council's court. Members of city council didn't like Elam's plan of a $10 municipal fee. So now we, along with other residents, greatly anticipate what will come next. What "ball" will the city council swat back as a solution to the problem?

Fact: Nothing will be resolved until the emotions die down and communication begins.