Ironton finance committee continues work on budget

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 29, 2005

Finding a common ground on a city municipal fee and budget cuts was the thrust of Tuesday’s meeting of the Ironton Finance Committee, although little concensus was reached.

A $10 fee imposed for two years, which would generate a total of around $1.2 million seemed to be an early favorite.

Councilman Richard Price, who has a pending ordinance that would place a $5 fee on citizens, said he would have a hard time voting for a fee much higher than that figure.

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“I find it very hard to enact any municipal fee after the voters voted it down, I’d like to see us generate $100 per house, but the citizens of Ironton spoke and said they didn’t want a fee, but you look at the budget and you know something’s got to give, so I’d be OK with a $5 for two years.”

Councilman Bob Cleary, who had previously proposed a $10 municipal fee, began to reconsider when he saw money being taken from the general fund to pay for some enterprise funds.

“I feel that an enterprise fee should pay for itself, period,” Cleary said. “If we pass a $5 safety fee, and we need to raise sanitation rates one or two dollars, I think we should do that.”

The proposed 2006 budget includes $106,000 that should

be reimbursed to the city from enterprise funds that have been borrowed from the general fund that prompted Councilman Chuck O’Leary to say that he would support a lowering of the fee so it would only generate $500,000 to compensate.

The only matter agreed upon — though unofficially — by the committee and councilmen was the fee’s length of two years, which all except committee member Rick Meeks said they could live with. Meeks said he wanted no longer than 18 months.

In terms of budget cuts, the matter that met the quickest consensus was what to do with the city’s parking department. Committee chair Bob Cleary suggested unfunding the parking department, but bagging meters instead of removing them, and enforcing a two-hour parking limit. The idea seemed agreeable to the council and committee, as was Cleary’s proposal of revisiting the issue in six months.

The subject of the city’s engineering department met with more debate. Some councilmen and committee members said that they would like to see the city engineer position to be handled by a private company.

“My thought would be to farm this out totally, I talked with two engineering firms who said they could do it for a year for $25,000, and that’s for eight hours a week,” O’Leary said. “But I think we need the code enforcement and the clerical position there.”

Councilman Leo Johnson said that some of the monies to pay for the engineer’s services could be taken from the city’s combined sewer overflow fund.

Cleary suggested a drastically different approach: keeping the city engineer and releasing the rest of the department, save for possibly the department’s secretary.

“In my experience, an engineer is invaluable up there,” Cleary said. “I think the engineer has been one of the most valuable tools the city has ever had.”

Earlier in the meeting,

Blankenship had taken the floor, concerned at some of the specific expenditures of the city.

“I’m new at this, so I’m not afraid to ask questions, and I promised the citizens that I would ask questions. But after seeing the expenditure sheet for November, that opened my eyes, as to some of the things we’re spending our money on,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship’s major question centered on $7,621 paid during November to Speedway for fuel.

Blankenship said he wanted to explore other options for the city’s gas, including buying from a wholesaler. Anderson expressed a concern about theft should the city use a pump that it owned, but the mayor said that he would pursue the issue.