Council to consider more financial fixes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 26, 2004

No one can say that city leaders have failed to develop a plan to address Ironton's financial troubles - in fact at least three separate proposals are on the agenda for Thursday night's meeting.

When the Ironton City Council meets at 6 p.m., they will consider a variety of options, all of which ask residents to pay a little more.

Proposals on the agenda include a re-sponsored $10 per month municipal fee, a $2.50 monthly garbage fee increase and a comprehensive plan that would address a number of issues by instituting a $3 per month municipal fee, changing the city's reciprocity agreement and raising water rates.

Email newsletter signup

Not to be confused as solely a sanitation issue or a way to halt the layoffs of nine city employees, all of these proposals will first and foremost address the city's more than $500,000 deficit between revenues and expenses.

For Councilman Jim Tordiff, the $10 municipal fee that was originally proposed by the mayor is still the option of choice. Despite an outpouring of community support, the fee was voted down two weeks ago.

Going with the motto of, "If at first you don't succeed, try and try again," Tordiff proposed new legislation for a municipal fee that would still ask the men to work eight hours a day.

"I just believe, very strongly, that the easiest and fairest is the $10 fee across the board," he said.

If the fee was adopted and the three sanitation employees were brought back to work with the understating that they would work half a day in other departments, the city may actually be able to reduce garbage rates, Tordiff said.

Because he had not yet seen some of the other proposed legislation, Mayor John Elam said he continues to support the municipal fee because of public sentiment that has been expressed in meetings, a survey conducted by Ohio University Southern and on petitions circulating in town.

"I think that the residents have spoken. I have pledged my support for a $10 municipal fee that will be reviewed every six months," Elam said. "Now it is up to council."

A proposed sanitation increase of $2.50 per month that is also on the agenda would not be necessary if the municipal fee passed and could be voted down, Tordiff said.

Echoing his recent sentiments, Tordiff said he believes that council has tied the mayor's hands.

"I really think there is an effort being made to do things differently and show some leadership," Tordiff said. "… How can we possibly expect him to succeed if we don't give his plans a chance? That baffles me."

Councilmen Bill Nenni and Jesse Roberts have prepared a comprehensive plan that addresses the city's half million dollar deficit in a variety of ways.

"We tried to address all the concerns and put together some type of working plan," Nenni said. "It is not going to please everybody. It might not please anybody. It will be a compromise for everyone."

The first step would be to alter the city's reciprocity agreement with neighboring communities by 50 percent. This means individuals who live in Ironton but work in other communities would have to pay half of the city's income tax, currently 1 percent. They currently only pay where they work if that municipality has a tax. This would generate approximately $300,000 per year.

The second step would be to implement a $3 per month, per household municipal fee that would generate $160,000 a year. It would be self-canceling on March 31, 2005, Nenni said.

The third step would be a 5-year water plan that would increase the water rates by 25 cents per thousand gallons starting in July, another 10 cents in 2005 and an additional 5 cents per thousand gallons each year for 2006-2008.

This final step would be to bring this fund into the black and allow the position of assistant water clerk to be funded for an entire year, which it currently is not.

The only expense increase included in the plan would be for $30,000 to be spent on a contract for services economic development plan.

Overall, the plan would generate $430,000, but Nenni said that the budget would balance in 2005 after unemployment benefits for the laid off employees comes off the books. Sanitation is one area the plan does not address, Nenni said.

"We have asked the mayor to do some creative thinking to address sanitation," he said. "We feel there are other ways this can be addressed without increasing the rates."

Possible solutions include garbage pickups every other week, adjusting the routes or a centralized drop off for grass and yard waste, Nenni said.

The councilman said voters should still have the option in November to vote on an income tax increase or municipal fee.

"Before this thing can ever be solved, the public has to be involved," Nenni said. "It is not going to just be solved by the mayor and it is not going to just be solved by council."