Budget talks resume with familiar look

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

Citizens may get a sense of deja vu if they attend Thursday's Ironton City Council meeting but it is not just in their heads.

The agenda for the 6 p.m. meeting looks strikingly similar to last meeting's as council continues to joust over budget ideas. The two plans on the table are

similar to the previous incarnations that were voted down and tabled - though one has the most disputed portion removed. Meanwhile, another proposal would let the voters decide in November.

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Councilmen Jim Tordiff and Chuck O'Leary have reintroduced a plan similar to ones they supported before but which were voted down twice.

The newest version still includes a $15 per month municipal fee that would lead to hiring three additional police officers, two street workers, keeping the swimming pool open, funding the port authority, keeping the parking meter department in place and using $300,000 of the $543,177 carryover for equipment replacement.

The only real difference is that now the funds for equipment replacement is clearly defined to be used in flood and street departments.

"I don't know that it does have any more chance (of passing)," Tordiff said. "But it is my opinion that that doesn't eliminate our need to continue to show what we think are the city's budget needs are until something is passed."

Tordiff said he remains unwilling to compromise on expenses because he believes the city has been cut as far as it can go.

The other budget on the table has been sponsored by Councilman Bob Isaac but is similar to a plan originally proposed by Jesse Roberts and Brent Pyles. That version was tabled.

The major fundamental difference in the plans is that this version does not eliminate the building code officer, the flood/street/sanitation superintendent positions and parking meter department. It would still pass a $3 per month fee to fund the flood prevention system.

Isaac said his motivation for this plan is tied to a proposal to place the issue of the $15 per household monthly fee on the November ballot for voters to decide as part of a charter change.

Nursing homes, group homes and assisted living facilities will pay $1 per bed or the $15 fee, whichever is greater.

This would let the city get through the year until the voters could speak their minds.

"There were not a whole lot of changes. It will wait and let a vote happen to see what the people want," Isaac said. "Then we can see where to go from here."

Several members of council had discussed calling a special election but may have moved away from that considering it would cost the city a minimum of $10,000.

Though he hopes council will pass the fee now and repeal it later if necessary, Tordiff said he certainly supports asking the people to decide on the much-debated topic that has left council at odds.

"If a majority of the citizens do not want to provide for the health and safety and welfare of the citizens and the workers, then I don't want to be a part of that," Tordiff said, reiterating his statement that he will resign if an educated public still opts against the fee. "I don't think it will come to that after we educate the voters and they see what we see. I think they will support a big revenue increase."

Councilmen O'Leary and Roberts co-sponsored three ordinances that would increase some existing fees and fines.

One ordinance would increase the fine for parking at an expired parking meter from $2 to $5 if paid within 24 hours and from $5 to $10 if paid after that time period.

Another law would increase the fines for parking in a fire lane, near a fire hydrant and in a handicapped space from $20 to $150.

The final fee change would be to increase the cost of rummage sale permits from $1 to $5.