City finance group mulls new ideas

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 28, 2005

Snow flakes were flying outside Thursday, but it was ideas that filled the air inside the Ironton City Center.

The city's finance committee and most of the council members ignored the slick roads and steady snowfall to meet, continuing to examine the city's budget problems that revolve around spending approximately $500,000 more than it brings in each year.

Some ideas, such as a modified $15 monthly fee, sounded familiar but others were new proposals that could potentially help the city save money.

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"The people spoke twice now that they don't want any increase in taxes," Councilman Bob Isaac said as he presented several proposals. "I think they have to expect that some services will be cut."

Though he did not have exact dollar amounts assigned to each idea, Isaac presented several that addressed a number of issues., including: A $3 monthly fee only until the floodwall levy would be adopted by voters, eliminating the sanitation department and contracting garbage service out, updating city ordinances involving police citations eliminating the city pool, combine the city's code enforcement position with that of the fire inspector.

Isaac has remained adamant that citizens do not want to pay fees but did concede the $3 fee would help offset the $124,000 hit to the general fund that was created because the levy was voted down.

"I think we have to do whatever we have to do to get the floodwall levy on the November ballot," he said. "In the meantime, I think we should enact a temporary fee just until the levy is passed by the public."

The councilman said he did not want anyone to lose their jobs but that it may be cheaper for the city to contract garbage collection out. Residents currently pay $9.50 a month. Several councilmen said they believe Rumpke or similar companies would do it for as low as $7 a month.

Isaac suggested the city could implement a fee for the monthly amount that is saved. This would not cost residents any more but would help the city generate revenue that could go to the police department, he said.

If the city workers wanted to bid on the job, they could lease the trucks from the city, he said.

Councilman Jesse Roberts presented several proposals as well. Some where similar and others were variations of ideas that had been heard before.

Roberts' suggestions include removing one position from the engineering department, eliminating the parking meters and the position of meter maid and working with the county to combine police dispatching with 911.

Finance Chairman Brent Pyles agreed that this is an option that must be examined, despite the fact that the county commissioners are reportedly not in favor of the plan.

"I just can't come to the point where we say no just because we have two or three county commissioners that say no. We need to look at the services and what they should or should not be doing," Pyles said.

"We need to look at 911 services in the big metropolitan areas that function well. What aren't we doing what they are? We are paying for this."

The county has half percent sales tax that funds the service but several councilmen don't believe the city receives much benefit.

Councilman Chuck O'Leary presented a modified municipal fee. The newest proposal would implement a $15 per month, per household fee during the first year that would become a $10 fee in year two and three before it expired.

"I think there have been a lot of good ideas here," he said. "Still, there are a lot of 'what ifs.' I would still like to see a fee to keep the city solvent."

In other business, the committee favorable recommended a temporary budget that will carry through February. A permanent plan must be adopted by March 31.

City Council met in special session Saturday and today to adopt the plan as soon as possible. The urgency is to allow the flood department employees to be paid for overtime worked this month.